Pragmatic 89: The Problem Is Us

6 December, 2018


Social Media has taken the world by storm but recent history has shown all that glitters isn’t gold and has many people wondering if the technology is the problem, or if the problem is us?

Transcript available
Welcome to Pragmatic. Pragmatic is a discussion show contemplating the practical application of technology by exploring the real-world trade-offs, we look at how great ideas are transformed into products and services that can change our lives. Nothing is as simple as it seems. This episode is brought to you by ManyTricks, makers of helpful apps for the Mac. apps for the Mac. Visit for more information about their amazingly useful apps. We'll talk more about them during the show. Pragmatic is part of the Engineered Network. To support our shows, including this one, head over to our Patreon page and for other great shows, visit today. I'm your host, John Chidjie, and today I'm joined by Seth Clifford. How are you doing, Seth? Good. How are you? Very good. Very good. Long time no chat. Yeah, it's been a while. Thanks for coming on though. The funny thing about this particular topic is and today I want to talk about social networks or social networking and things of that nature. The funny thing is about this, I kind of - when I was thinking about this initially, I sort of touched a little bit with Mastodon in episode 80 but the truth is that I didn't really cover some of the issues about social networking and in more recent times, it's become more of a - I've become a little bit more disillusioned by the whole thing to be honest. But when the podcast you're currently making with Tim - oh my God. I'm messed up already. You want to give it a go? Nahumick. Yeah, that's it. Nahumick. Yes, got it. Sorry, Tim. Anyhow, I listened to an episode that you put out in I think it was June of 2017. It was episode nine of the first season of Fundamentally broken and it was called I don't want to do this anymore. And that kind of inspired me to do this. And I realized that was a year ago. But you know what? Hey, sometimes it takes time to percolate. Wow, that's shocking to me that that was a year ago. But okay. It's crazy, isn't it? Time flies when you're having fun. But yeah, so look, I really appreciate you coming on to talk about this because it's an interesting and complicated topic. And it's, I know it's not technically about the technology itself, but the technologies enabled us to do this as a, I don't know, as a, as a species, I guess. Yeah. Because I mean, it's not just Western culture, it's everywhere now. Yeah. And I would say, you know, some of your other shows that you've done, while maybe not as deep technically, I think there's cultural relevance to a lot of the topics that you've covered in the past. And I think this is one that probably is worth exploring in a similar capacity just for, you know, the ways that it's impacted everything. Cool. Well, I'm glad you agree because I reckon – thank you. I agree. It should be good. So here we go. The funny thing about social stuff is I was thinking about where does it all go wrong or where does it all start depending on how you want to think about it. I mean everyone I suppose grows up in a social environment but beyond family, most of that in a greater sense is usually it starts at school and you sort of learn the niceties of what you share and what you say to other people and what you keep to yourself and it lives inside your own brain. The funny thing is that I guess I never really thought if you had said to me like 20 years ago the way that people just freely share their thoughts randomly for the whole world to read, I never would have believed you. It's the sort of thing that I just never thought there would come a time when people sharing their thoughts, feelings, opinions, whatever about their lives would turn into what it's become. Tyrone: Yeah. It's - it has definitely snowballed and it's something I don't think anyone anticipated. Gideon: No, for sure. Absolutely. So - and I mentioned on the Master Don episode, episode 80, I talked a little bit about sort of like the history of social networks a little bit. But more the open source stuff, I'm not going to cover that today. And just actually a side note about that. I just want to say off the bat, I don't normally take claim chowder and say, "Hey, I was right about it. I predicted something." But you know what? I'm going to just say this one time. I did predict back then when that episode came out, which was just a while ago, that Twitter was going to extend its character count. I predicted 250. Turns out, two months later they did a trial of 280 characters. I was out by 30 characters. But anyway, that's pretty close, so I'm going to claim yay. There you go. Again, not a marketable skill and doesn't really mean anything to anyone, so whatever. Tyrone: Well congratulations. Matthew - Why thank you, thank you very much. That'll do, I'm totally happy with that. Alright so really super quick though, don't want to talk about bulletin boards, okay BBS is - yep there are things. So is Usenet, so is Geocities, I kind of call that socialish because of the whole feedback functionality with guestbooks and stuff, but it really sort of started, I think, with social media with Six Degrees in 1997. Did you ever come across that one? No, I don't think I have. It wasn't huge, but it was based on that idea that everyone is connected to everyone else in the world by six degrees of separation. Oh, sure. Okay. Yeah. And it was kind of you could join up and you could nominate other people that you know even if they hadn't signed up. So of course that didn't really last all that long, last about four years. That's all you could really do. There wasn't a lot you could do with it. And I remember a few friends of mine at work were doing it and they said "Oh you should check this out." I looked at them and said "Yep, stupid." And I never actually did it. But in any case. So 2002 there was Friendster and I think that's sort of when people thought "Oh yeah this could be a thing" and then of course 2003 there was MySpace. 2004, there was Facebook and of course, everybody's favorite, especially at the moment, Twitter in 2006. So anyhow, and that's really all the history I'm going to talk about, so that was quick. But anyhow, and I said before that the episode you guys recorded inspired me. And I want to sort of start with, before we dig into what is social, is I actually did something after I listened to that episode that I don't normally do. I don't normally send in feedback, but I actually sent you guys an email. Yeah, you did? I did. I was having a rough day or perhaps slightly demoralizing day. And normally I would ask, I thought about this, I need to ask permission before I read this on the show. But hang on, I wrote the email, so I don't have to ask permission. Yeah, I was gonna say. So there you go. I'm all good. So I'm gonna do it. Okay, I'm going to quote myself and I'm only doing this not because it's profound, but it's reflective of how I was feeling at the time. Oh dear, here we go. Social has invaded our lives, but the worst part is that it has been welcomed into our lives with open arms. I turned off Twitter for the most part months ago. I hate Facebook and only engage on there with my wife and kids. I've shifted to Mastodon hoping to find something better, but alas, there's nothing more to find. Yeah, so that was probably about 90% of my email. I trimmed out some of the pleasantries, but that was the bottom line and Yeah So without further ado, how would you define social do you think? well You know, I I consider myself a technologist, but my first love was psychology So I am constantly viewing everything that happens in my world through that lens and if I had to Draw boundaries around that term To connect it to what we're talking about. I would think that I Mean in the broadest sense email can be social networking, right? It's It's it's connecting to people via a medium I think what we what we want to encapsulate as social now probably involves a larger public forum where I guess there is still some semblance of Back-channel communication you can have private messages or direct messages or something like that But I think you know again broadly it's I go someplace and I have a box that I type in Or a place to put a picture or a recording or something like that and I blast it out to everybody and then I wait for reactions, it's it's kind of a It's funny too because when when all these things started everybody businesses and brands and things, we're like, "How do we broadcast? How do we broadcast to an audience?" I think that mentality has pervaded to the point where individuals now broadcast and then there's a feedback loop that gets established. Social to me is anything where people are interacting with one another and now probably in a more visible public way. - Okay, now that's fair enough. And I like the idea of starting with email because email, it started out just being text, then you could start embedding images, for example, in your emails and so on and so forth, attachments and then they would display in line. But the reality is that's still one person generally to one other person. I mean, I guess there's distribution lists and you could email, yeah. But the truth is that for me, social is sort of, is that transition, as you said, to a more public forum. and ignoring the back channel communications like direct messaging and such, definitely I see it as being a snippet of, or a snippet of thoughts. Like it's not a blog post, it's like it is some, a post of either text and image, more recently video, audio clips even, you know, something like that. And you post that and then people that follow you will see that post and they can like it, boost it, retweet it, whatever the medium you're on supports, heart it I guess. Actually, has that become a verb yet? Probably not. I wouldn't doubt it. It probably is. Anyway, but they can then reply to your post and make commentary on it and that begins a broad social interaction. I guess the thing is that the hope is that other people that see what that other person liked, boosted or retweeted might like it enough that they may choose to follow you some more of the time and so on and so forth. It can set off a spark of people wanting to follow what you're posting and so on and then that just builds on itself and wash, rinse, repeat in an endless cycle I guess. I think the difference between a blog and social is sort of for me is just a mixture of length and depth of a post because you could argue that if I write a three page article I mean, apart from the limitations of Twitter or Facebook, no one goes to Twitter or Facebook to read long form articles because that's not what it's supposed to be providing. People want to dip in and dip out. I also sort of want to draw a line between what blogging is, which is I think longer form, more carefully considered perhaps, maybe that's the way to think about it, but it's a more engaging, in-depth exercise to read a blog. I think that that differentiates it from social enough. Adrian: Yeah. I think there's also, I mean traditionally a blog has implied a sense of personal ownership over both the location and the content they're in. I think a differentiating factor would be that social networking implies you are somewhere that is managed for you by a company and you're kind of playing in their playground. You have your little space but it's not really yours and I'm sure if you read the Terms of Service it's really not yours. But I think that was a line of demarcation that a lot of us saw very early on and I'm sure there's been a lot of digital ink spilled about that topic in and of itself. And then it gets blurrier with things like Medium where you have a blogging platform that is hosted for you and there is a level of social interaction and upvoting and kind of recycling that content between other people so that it bubbles up and surfaces in front of others. I think that kind of tool stands right in the middle of both. Tyrone: Yeah that's a good point actually. Interesting idea also with social when you post your identity is it's not an ownership thing generally. It's more of like a rental agreement where Twitter is the landlord that can kick you out if it wants to. Medium is an interesting – you're right. Medium is a bit of an odd blend, isn't it? Because you can do the post but the way that it functions is almost got a lot stronger of a social slant to it. Yeah. And yeah, it's interesting. I hadn't thought of that. I guess in the end, I was also thinking about the difference with blogging is that you have to go to visit and obviously excluding medium, you have to go to the site specifically to read their blog entry. So you have to go and seek it out. Whereas if you go to a site like Twitter, all of the posts, you go to Twitter to see all the posts. You don't have to go to John Chidgy's Twitter website. don't have to go to Seth Clifford's Twitter website which both of those are a little bit barren at the moment but that's okay. It's a long story. Actually, it's not a long story but anyhow. You know what I mean? It's like you don't have to go and seek it out. And then I thought well, another differentiator would - the counter argument to that is if I've got an RSS feed aggregator, you could argue that I'm getting the aggregators doing all that but there's only us nutters do that so the majority of people don't do that. I think the other dimension to consider is what the intended audience is, right? So a lot of us started blogs a million years ago and were writing thoughts for anybody who felt like stopping by but with no particular audience in mind. And now a lot of these tools have created the need to not only find an audience as, I guess, as large as you can possibly muster but also targeting different types of people, you know, bringing certain types of content to certain demographic groups that would be most interested in it and, you know, hyper-refining that to the point where everybody can still see it but there's a different angle to how things get published, shared, you know, batted around between individuals and, you know, bounced into different spheres. Tyrone: That's a good point too. Yeah, absolutely. I kind of just want to also - I was thinking about the incentivization that companies have that run social networks and thinking about if I was in their shoes, what would I like to see in terms of behaviors because by getting everyone to shift their – well, if they used to be blogging or to condense their thoughts, strip down their thoughts to short snippets and short posts, how do you – you want people to come to the site and keep coming back to the site. So the incentivization is that if you can get everyone to post all of their stuff on your site and that could be in the case of a longer form thing like Medium or in the case of short form like Twitter or something a bit more media rich like Facebook I guess. You want to get people to come back to your site. You want them to never leave your site and you want to try and keep them from leaving your site. So it makes more sense to bring in more and more of the outside into your platform so that they never have to leave and then of course more eyeballs, more exposure time, more engagement and that becomes a bit more self-perpetuating. That's their hope I suppose anyhow. Tyrone: Yeah and that's exactly it. Once the audience builds, it's hard to leave you know if you're a content creator and you want to share something with people, it's hard to go somewhere else. I've heard this argument from a lot of people where they'll basically say well I could not be on Twitter, but then no one would know about this thing that I did or made or want to share with the world, because there's no other way for me to disseminate that information as widely. You know, it's it's it's become this this kind of like informational gatekeeper and not in an authoritarian way, just in a efficiency way. Like this is the easiest way for me to blast this information out and have it, like you said, self perpetuate across audiences and geographies and time zones and everything else to get it out. quickly, easily and as far as I possibly can. Tyrone: Yeah exactly right. And I guess that was one of the things that I wanted to sort of dive into just a little bit is that when you do set up a social account, you know, even if you're an individual like you're not necessarily a company but you're trying to I guess cross promote is more kind of what I'm thinking. So like you do a blog but then you post a link to the blog on Twitter let's say or Facebook or whatever and that's sort of like a cross promotional thing where you make something somewhere else but you want to get that blasted out to a broad audience like you were saying, then you would go to different social networks in order to do that. Then the idea would be that all these people from all these different networks, depending upon where they may be, then find out about your work. They follow you on different social networks and they find out you're doing that. I guess it's essentially you're advertising your own work but you're using the social network as your distribution platform, I suppose. So, that's certainly one way you can run a social account, that's for sure. And I guess the other way of thinking about it, and I guess I really only came up with two really basic ways, which is the cross promotional idea. It doesn't have to be what you always do, but as an individual, the other way I've seen some people treat Twitter, and there's actually quite a lot of people that treat it like this, is just as an individual that you're an island and you just comment on things, whatever you think, see or find whatever but you're not really advertising anything. And some people take it a step further and they just choose to ingest and to read and back in radio days, we used to call that sandbagging on the side. So, you never actually participate in a conversation, you just be eavesdropping. It's like some people actually do that. They actually follow me for ages and ages and ages and then I get a feedback email. They've never tweeted at me and they'll say, "Oh, I really love this episode." I'm like, "Wow, you've been following me for four years and this is the first time I've ever heard from you." It's like they're watching everything you're saying. They're just not coming back to it and that's okay. Some people actually do that as well. In fact, that's probably the majority of people on Twitter. If you look at the stats for the number of people that actually respond, that actually - I can't find the link at the moment but there was a study done that like 80% of traffic on Twitter was driven by like 5 or 8%. I forget the numbers but it was something crazy like that of the accounts. I'm sure even within that number, there's probably a split between people who are reading and replying to other people's content and people who are actually posting their own things into their own feed. Yes, absolutely. I guess the thing is that if you are an individual and you want to do posts on Twitter, if you want to play the game, and this is the thing I want to start to explore a bit now, is the game. The incentive for a user is to make posts that are potentially interesting for other people because the game seems to be people want more followers. This is the psychological bit. Maybe you can explore a bit. Tyrone: Oh yeah. Yeah, let's get right in there. This is the thing. It's like why do people want more followers? I mean superficially from my point of view, I always assumed it was because it was a sense of like validation or it was feeling like people are interested in you or something like that. But to be perfectly honest, yeah. I don't know. What are your thoughts on that? I think it's partly that. I think certainly for someone who is making something, if you're writing and sharing that if you're taking pictures and sharing that or doing anything and you want people to see kind of your work, I think there's definitely a validation mechanism in place. I think for a lot of people though, it's just, it's validation on a different level, right? It's, it's just a weird kind of innate human need to be accepted. And I think that when you gain followers, It creates a sense of acceptance even though there may be no interaction, there may be no implicit approval of, "I like what you've done," but somehow within our own minds it creates that link. When we see followers, it says to us, "I have value. There's intrinsic value in me being here because other people are attaching themselves to me." What's funny is that those people could not be interacting with you. They could be bots. They could be watching everything you do just to wait for their moment to pounce and eviscerate you online. There's any number of reasons why people might follow or why accounts might follow. Sometimes it's brands who really want to engage with you and really want to hear your thoughts about dryer sheets and toilet paper. But there's, you know, for the same reason that most people go out and socialize with other people and go to a party and want to be the life of the party, I don't think there's anything unique about, you know, joining social networks to kind of simulate that. I think that's just a human desire to be liked and wanted. And I think what's odd about it is that when you're at a party and, you know, you're telling a great story and regaling the audience with all of your misadventures and everyone's laughing and slapping you on the back, that kind of feeling of being in the center of attention and receiving that kind of positive social validation back is right there. It's immediate. On social networks, people approximate that with things like followers and retweets and hearts and whatever, but there's so little attached to it and it's behind this veil of you don't really know what precipitated it. You don't know why someone retweeted it or why they liked it and if they don't reply to you and say that was the greatest thing you've ever said, you're making that kind of like neurological connection yourself and then assigning it value which is intangible. Like there's no way to prove that that is value. Yeah, absolutely. And I guess just to your point regarding you don't know why they hit like because you've got one option in Facebook is to like. So they could like it because they agree with you, they could like you because they think you're being ironic but they don't necessarily agree with you. They could have accidentally clicked like which is a thing. And you just can't unlike things. Anyhow, but yeah, you don't know what's going through their head. You just see 10 likes and it's like, "Wow, some people really like this," but you still have no real definitive interaction as to why they liked it and whether or not they liked it for the right reasons or the reasons that you would suppose. We'll just pause for a second now to talk about our sponsor for this episode. This episode is brought to you by ManyTricks, makers of helpful apps for the Mac, whose apps do, well, guessed it, many tricks. And their apps include Butler, KeyMu, Leech, Desktop Curtain, TimeSync, Moom, NameMangler, Resolutionator and Which. Now there's so much to talk about for each app, we're just going to touch on some of the highlights for five of them. Starting with Which. You can think about Which as a supercharger for your command tab app switcher. 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Regarding the whole like, boost and retweet thing, it's kind of like an envy thing to an extent I think as well. The more you get, the better you feel even if it is irrational. That then drives another behavior which is befriending popular people in the hope that they will like, boost or retweet your posts which would then get more people to see your post which would then presumably get you more likes, boosts or retweets. Yeah. Before we explore that little wrinkle, there is something too around the feeling of watching other people with followers, with "successes" and feeling bad about that. There's the whole concept of people posting on, let's say, Instagram only the most wonderful things that happen to them or only the most beautiful pictures. The secret is that their life is actually a miserable hellhole. This is the image that they are portraying to the world, which then in turn can have either positive or negative impacts on people who look at that and either feel, "Oh, wow, really nice or my life is a shambles and this person is living the dream. There's so many layers to this. I didn't want to immediately steer away from the popular thing because that is a whole other aspect. You had just said in terms of feeling validation, getting followers, getting things, seeing other people with followers, there's this layering that happens and what's really the most interesting thing to me is that it all happens in the mind of the individual. Like there's never been, you know, some kind of written tome from a social network that says you must get followers. Followers are the only way to have value within this network but we have collectively agreed that that is the currency by which we will judge everything. You know, there are people with very few followers who have, you know, wonderful content that they're sharing with the world. But we've decided collectively, like, well, that's not super valuable because they don't have two million followers. So like what what good is it? And I it's it's odd to me that that has become the metric by which success is judged. And then, of course, to your point, latching on to people with followers in the hopes that you can osmotically attract some of their followers to you, it goes right along with that. Tyrone: Absolutely. No, absolutely right and I guess the thought that occurs to me is that there's always been this thing about like lifestyles of the rich and the famous kind of thing and you know, they do articles in magazines and I guess more recently TV shows and so on and so forth about it. And social media just brings that so much closer and more accessible and almost real time for anyone who cares to look at it. And so, I guess previously where that used to be snippets every now and then, you see a lot of people that become very envious of other people's lifestyles or rather their portrayal of their lifestyle and whatever that might be in a social sense. And then they want to try and emulate that themselves. They want that for themselves. You know, grass is always greener kind of syndrome. If that's a syndrome. Oh dear. All right. All right. So I guess some of the other negative behaviors that these sorts of desires and wants for likes, follows, retweets and all that stuff, some of the negative behaviors that drives, I was thinking about that and I guess it comes down to how do you make a post that more people are going to want to like. And if you look at trending or viral posts they are generally shocking or offensive. Because shock and offense traditionally like that will sell newspapers because they get people's attention. There's no news like bad news or that sort of thing. It's got to have some kind of hook to get people to have a reaction to it. The problem is that is also sometimes variations of that are things like shaming and humiliation of other people. sort of or takedowns of other people for example, that's another one. And the idea is it's almost like the more shocking and the more offensive, the more attention it seems to get. And it's for all the wrong reasons but because the incentivization is no different, people still seem to get that buzz out of it or something. Yeah. And I would say there's probably the spectrum of things that gain momentum within social networks, there is a lot of negativity. I would think the flip side to that is like a kitten falling asleep, sitting up and toppling over, that everybody decides this is the best thing we've seen all day. Unfortunately, that gets overshadowed by the uglier parts of these things. I think what you described is part of it that ends up being a catalyst for continued momentum and snowballing down the hill. I think another part of it in some cases, in some of the uglier cases, is that there is a component of anonymity that fuels that to some degree. Even if it's not anonymity in some cases, there's the phenomenon where people feel totally comfortable saying horrifically offensive things to other individuals in a forum online where in a face-to-face meeting they would never, never say it, never have the intestinal fortitude to even muster the words to their lips. But the being online and the detachment and depersonalization of it, it just enables them to unlock this uglier part of themselves and then that perpetuates as well and other people jump on it. - Yeah, that is very true. And there is definitely a separation and a dehumanization that it almost makes people feel safe. Like they can have such shocking or even a downright abusive commentary against other people's posts. And they just seem to suspend the fact in their minds that that's another person. And as you said, they wouldn't have the intestinal fortitude to do that face to face, but over a medium where you can't see their face and they're not in the same room, probably not even in the same country half the time, then suddenly that's no issue and you can just say that. And yeah. - Yeah, and what's truly disturbing to me is that, I guess it's been accelerated and exacerbated in the past few years, but there seems to be an incredible inability to conduct any kind of discourse that does not degrade into just shouting profanities at each other. Like, it's so rare to see two people having a measured discussion about something on social media because invariably one of them will then just basically, you know, arm up and start unloading on the other person and then it just, it falls apart. Or you'll end up with somebody who just decides to dip out and be like, okay, I'm done speaking about this 'cause you're clearly not in your right mind. But the internet was supposed to be this thing, and I'm gonna be old idealistic internet guy here. The internet was supposed to be this thing that enabled everyone to connect and share knowledge. Let's just, we'll paint it with that brush for a moment. And what we've seen was we were headed in that direction, and of course, human nature is such that will corrupt everything we touch 'cause that's what we do. But it seems that that has happened at such a grand scale. And it could just be perception, but it used to feel like that was the minority, that people would get together and have a discussion and then you'd have a couple of bad apples. But it just feels like these kinds of larger social networks have grown a lot more bad apples and that it has proliferated to the point where they now seem to outnumber the good apples in these orchards to extend the metaphor poorly. That's the feel is that while everyone is negative or there are so many negative people or there's so many abusive people here that it's no longer even safe to have an opinion or discussion. Exactly. If you dare to put any sort of an opinion out there, then all that's going to happiness, people just pile on top of that with a bunch of negativity and there'll be no constructive value to it. You might as well just keep it to yourself. Adrian: Honestly, that point exactly was a lot of the impetus for me just pulling the rip cord and getting out because I didn't have millions of followers. I had some followers and I got to the point where if I asked a question or said something and somebody was just like, well, that's dumb because reason. I was like, why did I bother? Why? I was just looking for somebody to answer this or, you know, I just wanted to share a thought I had. And I'm, you know, I'm, I'm having these, these things hurled at me for reasons I can't even understand. Like this, this has ceased to provide value. And I think that is a trend that we're starting to see. I know a lot of people that are now finally getting burned out on this. and they're like, "Yeah, the value ratio for me has tipped. It's no longer worth me being a part of this because I don't derive from it what I used to." Absolutely. I've pulled back significantly from social media, specifically both Facebook and Twitter. I spend much more time, if you were to look at time slicing and how much time I spend on everything, I spend most of it on Mastodon now. The reality is that even that is if you were to add all of that time up, it is still a small slither of a fraction of what I used to spend on Twitter. I mean, I used to keep up with my timeline. I used to interact with people all the time and it just, it was taking too much of my time and too much of my life and it was becoming very, very negative. So I made that choice to pull back from it. I didn't can it completely and I don't do a raw post to Twitter anymore. I will post it to Mastodon and I'll let the cross-poster just put it across. But at some point, I will turn that off as well and I'll stop feeding Twitter completely. But for the moment, that's the case. But anyway, so I guess there's a lot of negativity around posts and negative posts that get attention. But there's another one that I also came across that we haven't mentioned yet. And that's the funny, quote, "funny posts." And the other way of approaching it that some people do is they try to be funny in their posts and that is another method of fishing for likes, retweets and boosts and so on. And I've observed that behavior and I'll put my hand up even in myself years ago and what I learned from that was that because in real life I do tend to kid around a fair bit and I do try to, I like making people laugh, but one of the things that I've realized about that is that no matter if you're a professional comedian or if you're a dad joke telling comedian, that's me, but that's okay. Eventually, if you force yourself down humor paths of different humor, eventually you're going to offend somebody. And it's the sort of thing that as a stand-up, a professional stand-up comedian, they have to brace themselves for that. And they have to be able to handle that. But if this is a method of actually gaining popularity socially and social networks, then eventually you're going to have, you're going to hit that wall and you're going to start offending people. And I personally stopped trying to do that a long time ago, but I see a lot of that still out there, which is interesting. Yeah, I think that happens more. You'll kind of cross those lines of sensitivity with people more and more just based on the size of the network and the way that information travels. Speaking for myself, I too am a fool and I like to laugh and make other people laugh. That's just, that's part of enjoying life. And something that I identified in myself that I found really unpleasant was that I would have what I considered to be a funny thought, and I would be laughing myself about it, and I would share it and think, "This is hilarious, everyone is gonna love this." And if nobody loved it, then I would start to feel bad about that. And I would take that as like some weird kind of quiet disapproval, even though it could just be that it slipped by everyone who might have enjoyed it, they just didn't open Twitter at that time and didn't see it, that created a very negative kind of feedback loop for me. And when I identified that, I was like, wow, that is not, that's not something I need in my life. Like I don't, I want to laugh and enjoy the act of laughing and I want to laugh with people who enjoy those same things. And it shouldn't be, it shouldn't be something that I am measuring myself worth with because that's not what it's for. So, you know, that and a handful of other things that we can get into, I started to be really cognizant of what I was doing and how I was doing it and how it made me feel because my whole life I've self-examined to an unhealthy degree. But in this case, it was one of those things where it was absolutely necessary to peel these layers back, peel these layers back and understand my motivations for doing things so I could really make better decisions about how I spend my time. Tyrone: I mean I'll just say off about I've been accused of overthinking things and being a little bit too self-analytical or self-critical or whatever but I absolutely I think it's awesome that other people like I know that you obviously you've done those well with your behaviors. I think it's really important that people examine their own behaviors and understand what it is that motivates them to do certain things because that's the only way you ever really improve. That's the only way you ever really grow. It's that moment of introspection where you're like, "Well, hang on. I'm doing blah for this reason and this having a bad outcome. Maybe I should stop doing that," and you self-correct. That's absolutely the right thing to do. That's awesome. I think that, I guess my issue with where we're at with this, the social discussion is that that's sort of the short term, "I'm going to do something shocking. I'm going to try and make people laugh. I'm going to," in other words, I'm not going to necessarily be who I would ordinarily be in order to get that rush, that dopamine rush of likes, retweets, and boosts, and so on. If you carry that over a long period of time, then you start getting to this sort of long term effect of what social media is doing to you as a person. What I've observed, not necessarily talking about like you or I, but just what I've observed in the populace out there on Twitter, for example, because I spend my time, I have spent in social media most of my time on Twitter. I'll keep raising that, but it could be any social network you would choose to think about. What I'm seeing is that behaviors that ordinarily, let's talk about how we would deal with our kids. With kids, we will say to kids, "Look, don't call other people names." Plenty of supposedly grown-up people will openly insult and name-call other people via social media and that doesn't seem to be much of a consequence. So essentially we're normalizing that behavior. We know that historically, eventually those sorts of behaviors like name calling and escalation and these negative behaviors we're talking about, not so much the human one, eventually they'll lead to you will offend other people. Eventually there will be conflict, there'll be anger, frustration because there's a feeling of no consequences. behavior has this aspect in the long term where it tends to creep. I guess I was also thinking about this from generationally, thinking about just shock humor is another thing that comes to mind is if you're trying to attract attention with your posts and so on, what would be shocking today in five years' time will be significantly less shocking. I know there's probably a term for this. I'm not sure if you know there's a terminology for this, but I guess I kind of came up with generational shock humor creep. The idea is that shock humor being a style of comedy where you try and shock the audience one way or another. The problem is that each generation of society that we go through has a different set of things that they find shocking. Go back to Gone With The Wind. Like, "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn." The censors objected to that. 1939, they said the word "damn" was not on, and they'd actually banned it about a decade ago if I remember correctly. But these days, you can, and there's some bleeps coming. Brace yourselves. Anyhow, so to these days, you can basically put a word like "fuck" into every word in a proper English sentence, and it's actually a popular hit. And there's a skit that I absolutely love because it's so hilarious. Well, I think I should tweet about it, right? Because it's hilarious. Anyhow, but the original skit, it's not attributed very well. In fact, I couldn't track down who originally did it, but the version that I heard was the voiceover was a guy called Jack Wagner and he was the Disneyland voiceover guy and it had one of the four movements of the four seasons playing in the background and it basically culminates with the conclusion that F is the most ... that f*** is the most flexible word in the English language because you can use it practically every word in a sentence like, "Fuck the fuck." In terms of shock, creep, and so on, and what's funny and what's not, we've gone from damn in 1939 to fuck the fuck. How long was that? What? 50 years, 60 years? I look at that creep in behavior and what we find funny, and shock and funny and how you get a rise out of people or how you get a reaction, how you get the likes and the retweets and the boosts, that also seems to be escalating the further we down this road we seem to be going. So I agree with that. I think that's totally something that happens, but I'm going to, I'm going to poke through this to what I think is kind of the undercurrent that is being identified slowly but surely. And to me, from my perspective, that is not so much around shocking humor because I think that there's always been you know Ribaldry throughout humanity, right if you if you look and you go back to reading things like Shakespeare You know you play to the rabble in the pits, right? Like everybody likes a good dirty joke even if they don't admit it and I think that's just a thing that people will like and I think What is more commonly socially acceptable has you know, the spectrum for that has increased it is no longer You know culminating in damn. There's obviously a much a much broader palette with which we can You know paint obscenities But what is troubling to me is that? part of the part of the shift that I've witnessed is that You know personal accountability for what you say how you say it to whom you say it Seems to be eroding and there's a level of you know getting back to kind of discourse. There's a level of respect between individual people that seemingly doesn't exist anymore and while it's it's troubling to see it happen online I Feel and it could again. I will readily admit this could be me projecting my own feelings about you know how badly the world is trending into my own view. But it feels to me as an observer in society that people are much, much, much less respectful of one another in the real world. And there's also a sense of superiority and obliviousness that anyone else has needs around you. and I see it almost every day, in situations as simple as, you know, holding a door for someone, and they just walk right by you like you're invisible. And, you know, there's no like head nod or thank you or anything like that, or, you know, just basic, basic common human interactions and social contracts are gone. And it's not everybody. Like, there's still plenty of people that I interact with in the course of the day that are friendly and, you know, congenial, And I think, you know, people are great. People are inherently great. But I feel like there is a trend toward just not caring about anybody else and deeming yourself the center of your own universe. And that is, the troubling part about that is that that is a trait of child psychology, right? Children believe they are the center of their own universe because they don't have the abstract operations sorted in their own minds that indicate to them that they are part of a larger picture. But we see grown adults functioning in society with the same traits, that like, they will just walk over anybody and nobody exists but them. And it's just, that's the part that really, really gets me down about all of this, in that there's been this bleed out from the internet to reality where people, while they might not say the same things, the same nasty, you know, vociferous things to one another, there has been a deadening of awareness of other people and their needs and their desires and just that they even exist. And that's the part that really, really bothers me. Yeah. There's no question that social media interactions is having a big impact on the erosion of basic etiquette. I've definitely witnessed that and I don't think you're projecting anything there. I think that that is definitely the case. And as you say, it's not everybody, but it seems to be getting more common and that is a bit of a concern. And I think at this point, I just want to just go on the slight aside discussion about people that are trying different paths. So, rather than going to a social media where it's completely public, it's now going to something that's more like some people have basically disconnected and said, "You know what? I'm going to go to," well, in the old days, we would have said IRC and we'll go and join a chat room and it'll be a private chat room, but these days it's Slack. And so, all of this stuff is all very horrible. you want to get away from it. So it's like, what do you do? Hey, I've met some great people. Funnily enough, usually the genesis of a Slack group is from people who are all collectively trying to have a private conversation outside of Twitter or Facebook or Mastodon or whatever. I guess in that respect, I've been thinking a lot about what I don't like about Slack but it's not so much Slack. I don't think Slack is necessarily the right answer for that either because there seems to be different stages of evolution. I know this is a little bit of a tangent, but some of it's applicable as well to the public stuff. I just want to quickly go through this for a second. When you do form a group, a private group, and this is now a micro scale, talking about the macro scale, so we'll leave that to one side. When you tend to join a slack group, there's a sense of excitement. Sometimes it can last days or weeks, but eventually there'll be a series of people that will just disengage and ultimately that excitement disappears. And then you're just left with a handful of those people that are left that were most excited perhaps talking amongst themselves and everyone else has essentially left the room. I mean, they show and they're in the room, but they're not really in the room. And the moderator that runs that group eventually ends up inviting someone in who the others don't like and things die down further, it becomes a ghost town and then it collapses generally. It seems to be the stages of Slack group evolution and the only rooms that I've observed that seem to have any longevity or groups, groups, rooms, whatever, you know what I'm saying, those are the ones that tend to have more real world relationships with each other and have built some level of interaction beyond online that could drive more respect or the other, I guess there's other options where they succeed because it's a business need or a business intent or some kind of requirement that drives it forward. The reason I wanted to mention that is because from a micro scale, that's also a phenomenon that I've seen with people that try alternative public social media networks. I've seen a lot of this sort of thing happening at a macro scale then where people jump and they're, "Oh, I'm done with Twitter. I'm going to go to Macedon." They look around Macedon, "Yeah, this is great." And then after a little while, they have a realization that nothing's really changed. And that's that. So, I don't know, what do you think? No, I agree. I've seen that happen firsthand in Slack groups. I think I agree that there's definitely some that flourish because there is a personal connection outside of that medium. I think though, I've seen other ones really be great. And I've been a part of a couple of them for a few years now, having essentially left everything else where there is kind of an implicit social contract that we may discuss things, we may disagree really loudly with one another, but there is still the understanding that, hey, we're people and we have opinions and they may differ, but we respect one another. And that, you know, as long as everybody agrees that that is still a thing, I think it can still work. But we're talking about a group of maybe 30 people. You know, I think once, to your point, when someone comes in and kind of poisons the well, that definitely happens. But as long as the group in the aggregate agrees, hey, this is the way we want this to be and we're here for this reason because we didn't want to do this elsewhere. I think it can still work. I've seen it work and I think it can. But again, it's like it all comes down to the individuals and what you're willing to, you know, what you're willing to ascribe to personal accountability. And I think when people take account for their actions and they take responsibility for what they say and how they say it, that's real social interaction whether or not it happens in Slack or at a coffee shop. That, yeah, beautifully put. Absolutely right. And yes, so I, yeah, nailed it. I think on the Slack subject, I actually came across an interesting article in my travels a few months ago and it was actually about a company that was using Slack for work purposes, not Well, I mean I say work purposes but it was primarily focused on work and the funny thing was that the article is all about they used it for two years and then they threw it away. I think I read that article, yeah. Oh, okay. Cool. So, there'll be a link in the show notes. It is really interesting read and whilst I don't agree with all of it, I just want to pick some of the ones that I actually think some of the learnings from that in some dimensions at least apply to things like Twitter and Facebook publicly as well. So some other things that they found were some of the effects they found from using Slack and first one is FOMO or addiction to FOMO or fear of missing out which for the longest time I actually - what the heck does FOMO mean? But anyhow - Tyrone: We're too old, it's okay. James: Yeah I know. I'm just with wrong generation man. That's okay. Anyway, so yeah the author described it as a one way conveyor belt where in order to keep up with any thread. You had to scroll back in time to find when it started. That's if you could find when it started. Dear me. Then from a collaborative point of view, if you're split across different time zones, that's even harder because you'll have different people contributing based on when they're awake and when they're not awake. It becomes very disjointed and you feel the need to be engaged longer. You don't want to miss out when time zone whatever comes online. In the Twitter parlance, that would be, "Well, I'm in Australia, I've got to be up early for when the Americans get up because I mainly interact with Americans. So, I'll get up at silly o'clock. And I think it's a well-known thing that, well, it's not a well-known thing, but I do know that there are people particularly who have large audiences in the US that aren't in the US that actually were waking up and going to sleep on US time. So, that's a real thing that people do. And that's got to do with engaging and being afraid of missing out on something when you're asleep. And that's a problem, right? That can lead to all sorts of things like insomnia and it's not a healthy situation. So in any case, other things are things like being constantly pulled away from the feed to do like real world work but then you lose hours of the intervening information in the feed which you then have to go back to. So that's a disincentive for you to actually disengage and then do real work in the real world. So it's better to stay in the feed and stay in the group or whatever than risk getting out of sync with that group. I guess this is the dip in and out versus completionist approach to social media or I guess social interaction. In any case, that was FOMO. Tyrone: Yeah, I think those are totally valid. I know I felt that for a long time when I started getting very much into Twitter and enjoyed interacting with people and constantly checked it because, you know, because of its nature of, you know, instant gratification and real-time kind of response to everything. You know, you could be looking at it for an hour, put your phone down, and in the five minutes you're away, something incendiary could have happened. And once you've witnessed that once or twice, you always have that in the back of your mind, like, I don't want to miss out, like something could be happening right now, and you're drawn back into that activity regardless of other things you might need to do. I think just not being able to mentally detach and be present in any situation is dangerous as a human, but it's something that I noticed in myself. I didn't like that trait. I didn't like the fact that I was constantly being pulled to something that ultimately wasn't providing the value that I thought it was. I think that it's definitely a real thing. I think that it's extremely difficult once you're there to recognize it and to extract yourself from it. It feels very odd to pull yourself out of that if you have the capacity to do so. It did for me. - Yeah, it's very insidious and you don't realize that it's happening to you until you've been well and truly sucked into it for a long, for a reasonable period of time. It certainly seems to be something that's difficult to slap yourself out of from a self-awareness perspective. I think a lot of people that have that realization, they don't have that self-realization. It'll be a friend or a co-worker or your spouse or somebody that you know or witness that you're constantly engaged on your mobile device, catching up on Twitter, catching up on Facebook and you're interacting. It's usually comments. That's what I found anyhow. I mean, I got my fair share of those and rightfully so, criticisms of the fact that I was disengaged from reality because of the fear of missing out. And it's, yeah, it is quite insidious. It does worry me because a lot of people have this issue as a result of FOMO. But the next thing that they listed in that article was that it promoted shallow conversations as opposed to deeper conversations, which is generally what you would hope for, especially a collaborative environment. You don't want necessarily having a shallow conversation. But it's sort of their take on it was it was hard to park a comment and then come back to it because it's not possible to formulate, I suppose, a non-real time well thought through thought in an email, a memo, or a report or something else. It's sort of you've just got a couple of lines, a couple of sentences back and forth. How do you convey a lot of information in that way that's nuanced or complex. It's almost impossible to do that in small snippets so complex ideas, you can't convey them with any accuracy or efficiency in bite-sized chunks like short posts and whether it's a Slack group, whether it's a post on Twitter or even Facebook, it just doesn't seem to be easy. No, and that's another thing that I've noticed too, in that when you do read something that creates... So something else I identified in myself and that I have seen elsewhere in other people is that I would read something and immediately have a gut reaction to it without taking the time to internalize a thought or a feeling or anything and then feel compelled to immediately create a response without taking the time to fully expand the thought and think about what does that actually mean and is this, you know, what is the veracity of this information and who is this coming from and what is the context and all of the things that I pride myself on doing in my life, like, you know, taking in all the information I possibly can and making the best decisions about things, that does get eroded when you are in a, you're in a machine where you're constantly receiving inputs and expected to deliver outputs. And so I fully agree with that. I think that something like Slack can facilitate a deeper discussion because I have had good discussions with people, but again, we're talking about a finite group of people, a much smaller audience around, let's say, a specific topic. So I think for a larger decentralized team or extrapolate this to a broader global social network that does fall apart very, very quickly. Yeah, and I think it's the nature of the fact that you've got a limited number of interactees in a Slack group that will certainly assist in keeping any conversational threads more on topic and more relevant and less divergent. depends on the group dynamics specifically but much, much less chance of being derailed by random people throwing half-baked ideas into the mix. One of the ones I added to this list that I've observed is dominance of the committed or over-committed perhaps. Any slide whether it's a Slack group, whether or not it's a Telegram group, whether or not it's Twitter, Facebook, you know, Maston, whatever. Those people that have committed themselves to the feed, to reading it, to commenting on things, to contributing their thoughts back, to being as fully engaged with it as is humanly possible on as little sleep as possible, they will have inevitably, statistically more responses, more feedback, and there's a lot of power to steer and they essentially, they will leverage others that are involved in that feed generally. That means that those people that are overcommitted then can influence and ultimately the apparent collective end up having their thinking steered generally. Not always, but generally I've observed. Whereas those that aren't overcommitted that would prefer to dip in and dip out or don't participate in some of that, they have deeper or more nuanced thoughts, they end up having no say or little say or little contribution because they're not committed enough to doing that. So what I've observed is essentially that over-committed people then dominate the conversation despite the fact that their position, their opinions or their thoughts bear very little resemblance to facts necessarily or reality. And regularly, their thoughts or thinking can be quite shallow and straightforward, possibly popularity-driven rather than for anyone's betterment. And in the end, because they are overcommitted, they steer the conversation and not always for the right, not always for the best outcome. Yeah, absolutely. And there's a couple of other facets to this too that I think we can discuss. One of which is that when you get someone with an outsized kind of sway like that, if you are a person who dips in and dips out and wants to share an opinion, if that opinion differs from what has been determined to be the right opinion of the herd, you are deemed not acceptable, not worthy, right? So you're no longer allowed to have an opinion because it's not the opinion that we all agreed it is the opinion. And this can start when somebody reads an article and says, "Well, this is super messed up, right?" And everybody goes, "Yeah, it is super messed up." And then if you come in and go, "Well, actually, I read that article "and I work for that company, and I can tell you X, Y, and Z." And everybody goes, "Uh-huh, okay, great, thanks a lot, "like whatever, apologist." And you don't even get a platform on which to have a thought once everyone has decided what their thought is. The flip side to that, and one of the other things that continues to make me not interested in engaging in any of this anymore is that there is such righteous indignation and outrage on a daily basis from so many people about so many things, and everybody whips themselves into a frenzy, and then the next day, it's gone. It's forgotten, and we're on to the next thing. And if you even say, guys, what happened with this? we were so angry about this yesterday, for even mentioning that, you get leveled. If you're not up on the outrage of the day, then you're not even a part of the conversation. When you think about it that way, we've seen some incredibly outrageous things in our world and let's say, well, let's just call it the past five years. Okay, we'll make a bigger window around the past few. On a daily basis, you might read news that is deeply, deeply disturbing to you for any number of reasons. Those things continue to happen, whether it's a political thing that you disagree with or that has sweeping ramifications to civil rights or whatever. It could be a disaster, a tsunami, an earthquake, something where people are suffering, you know, in a horrific situation. But the very nature of social media is such that there is so much input all the time that, you know, to get back to not having a chance to think and digest and act and, you know, really emote the way that your body wants to, you're constantly receiving so much input that even if you still felt bad about that thing or still had a thought about it, it's almost irrelevant because everyone else has moved on, even if that thing is still happening, like a natural disaster occurs, people are going to be suffering for months. It was like a year that quarter parts of Puerto Rico didn't have power, but everyone stopped talking about it after like two weeks. So it was like, Oh yeah, right. Puerto Rico still doesn't have power, but whatever. Like there's so many other things to talk about. And that, that kind of dismissiveness of the reality that is occurring for so many other people is another thing that compounds all of this weird kind of cyclical behavior. And I think again, continues to dehumanize people because they just see it as another input. They don't take the time to look at it and go, "Wow, that is profoundly impactful or bad or good." They don't take the time to internalize it at all. Yeah, I think that's an excellent point. And I think that the amount of noise and the velocity of information is so fast that staying angry about any one thing is extremely difficult unless you have some personal connection to that. Like your example of Puerto Rico, for example, if you have loved ones over there, then obviously you may feel more of a connection to that and that topic will still be very much alive in the forefront of your mind, but the rest of the world is so overwhelmed with everything else thrown at it from the feed that they can't stay focused on it, rightly or wrongly. And I think, to be honest, it's hard to know what is necessarily right or wrong, but that effect of what is the outrage on the internet today is a real thing. And it's not really all that constructive. I don't know. I guess I think we should probably move to the, just quickly to the next bit and then we'll talk about what's safe and what's not. But they also mentioned in this article an inability in Slack, for example, there's an inability to organize anything and how online presence indicators were bad. Shrug, yes, I kind of agree with that, but I just wanted to have one last worthy mention, which was simulated transparency as opposed to real transparency. That is to say, their take on Slack was that it looked like they were being as transparent as possible with the people in the organization. I know this is more of a Slack thing than it is a Twitter thing, but I guess it's more about information overload, which is why I bring it up since you mentioned it, is that I guess the idea was that lots of information makes it look like you're being transparent everyone to look at but the more information they have, it's harder to find what they need to know. So if you're searching social for information, then good luck with that. You're probably better off looking at longer form articles. When you do searches on Google or what have you, if you're looking for something meaningful, people don't generally go to the Twitter firehose looking for detailed information or a single source of truth or any source of truth to be honest. there's just too much volume, too much velocity to the information. Yeah. And I think, you know, a single source of truth is almost an impossibility at this point, both because of the volume of perspectives that we can expose ourselves to, because the same, you know, and this has happened forever, but the same news story that gets reported in the US is reported very differently in the UK, very differently in Italy and very differently in Australia, because the perspective of the viewer is so different and the motivations are different and everything is just different. So the same event has completely different color to it depending on the lens through which it is viewed. I think the other side of this is that without going too deep into it, now we face a situation where even discerning truth is becoming harder and harder because there is so much disinformation mixed with actual information and the net effect of people ingesting all of it is that it has become excessively difficult to identify valid factual things in our world. Even those things are open to debate, sadly. Yeah. No discussion on this is complete without mentioning the latest, and it's not even a a new term, but it certainly has been around for quite some time. But in the modern era, in, I think it was 2016 during the US election, the quote is "fake news." Yeah. And it's extremely difficult because it's now become so easy to spread false information that can eventually lead to fear, uncertainty, and doubt, that old, the military concept. In the past, it was hard to do that because you could only really get to a large audience via something like a newspaper, maybe radio. But it had stricter controls. It had editorial and well, to varying degrees. I know that there were some people, some old man syndrome, "Oh, I'd never read the New York Times because that's so biased against blah, blah, blah." I don't know. Those people were out there obviously and that's fine. There's probably still a of that today, but the truth is in social media and the broader internet, there is very little editorial and there's very little control and there's very little even vague attempt at trying to figure out if there is a reliable, quotable source. For all the publications that go to the trouble and all the individuals that go to the trouble to do that, there are a hundred times more that don't. That's the problem that makes this fake news insidious is that if it's enticing enough, if it's shocking enough, if it's noteworthy enough, then it will get more traction than the truth. Yeah. And the other thing to consider too is that I feel that this has been a continuum, right? So dial back to the 1950s, you had journalists who would get the facts and establish what they were, verify them and report the facts. And in the latter half of the 20th The definition of news changed ever so slightly, decade after decade, to the point where probably, you know, in the late 90s and 2000s, you had opinions that were commingled with news. And when you enter a 24-hour news cycle with, you know, cable channels that are on all the time, you have to fill that time with something and you fill it with opinion about the news. And over time, there has been a shift in acceptance as to what facts actually are. And people, because they were presented with facts and opinions in the same span of time, they mash them together and they start to form their own opinions about facts. And that then becomes more pervasive. And I think social media has exacerbated that excessively to the point where not only do you have news and opinion displayed in the same exact way? Like two tweets right on top of one another. One could be a hard fact and one could be the most outlandish opinion about anything you could possibly read, but they both have the same weight in your timeline and they're both read in the same way. And then right above that is a funny cat video. And I think that people have lost, well not everyone of course, but I don't wanna paint with too broad a brush, but culturally we have lost the ability to discern fact from opinion from straight up fiction and we weight these things equally. And that phenomenon coupled with the inability to take time to digest information and the immediacy of a response and of having an opinion, it just creates this whirlwind of poor choices. Yeah, that's, yeah, exactly. It's kind of scary actually. When you stack it up like you just did, it's actually really quite terrifying because it basically means that people have never been, despite the fact that the internet and social media have given us these distribution channels for information, it can be just as easily disinformation and people have never been less informed it seems because of that uncertainty between what is fact and what is not. And they don't have time to react or to, well, sorry, they don't have time to consider before they react or they feel that they don't. I mean, they do, but they feel like they don't. They need to be on the current news of the moment and the outrage of the moment in some cases. And it just leads to, it cannot lead to anything positive, I suppose. That's the fear, right? Yeah, and I mean, now we're getting into a period of time where artificial intelligence is gaining the capability to transform what we actually see and hear to a point where people will see things that they will look at, video and audio, and say, "That is a thing that happened, and it has been completely manufactured." And this is one of the things I'm kind of researching at work. said it's kind of terrifying when you stack it all up that way. This is the progression where we're headed though, that truth is a variable. It's no longer a constant and there's no way to really prove it because if you have software that can create, you know, untruth, you have software that can debunk it, but it becomes this factual arms race where unless someone is willing to take the time and do the legwork to say, what actually happened here? Let me look at a lot of different sources, which most people won't. I mean, that's, that's really the only way you can get to any kind of kernel of truth is to look at all the different perspectives and then make your own judgment, but people won't do that. And it all, it all ends up being because people make decisions based on misinformation because they don't take the time to think and digest because they don't take the time to ruminate on what something actually means, other decisions get made, other choices get made. You know, factions are formed and groundswell occurs and you start to see movement in any one direction and if you trace it back to its initial factor, its impetus, you realize like this shouldn't have happened at all. And it's, it's, this used to be limited, you know, in previous generations to someone standing on a crate in the town square shouting. And if you were within earshot, you would listen and decide what was right and what was wrong and take that back and discuss it with your friends and family. And then obviously, media has changed that. And this is just an evolution of all of that stuff. But it has degraded our ability as individuals to make better decisions. I've said this before, social media to me feels like a science experiment gone horribly wrong. It feels like Jurassic Park. It's like we did this because we could but we didn't think if we should. I've mangled the wonderful quote but you get the idea. Tom: Yeah. I get the idea. I do. What we might do at this point is I want to talk about the controls that we have given ourselves, that is to say in these environments to try and suppress bad actors in the space. Because I find that in the real world, as you translate how we deal with bad actors in the real world versus the social space, there's some interesting differences there. I guess I'll start with the basic adage of what do we post online and how. If you think you're saying things in a private chat room, then you might think that's okay. Well, no, not necessarily because I've seen plenty of cases where supposedly private conversations have been shared outside of that group. It could be a screen dump or a log file, but it could be shared anywhere. Once it's on the internet, other people can get it. Same with Facebook and so-called private accounts. All it takes is befriending someone that you don't know or you can't trust someone that do know and your midnight rage post could be anywhere and everywhere for all you know. I guess the thing I always used to say I liked about Twitter was that it made no bones about the fact that your account was a public account. I mean, I know they introduced private accounts, but essentially the vast majority of accounts are public accounts. Facebook is subtly different in some ways, but it progressed to that point as well where its default was posts are public. can change it of course as well but in any case. The problem with what you post online, despite all of the negative social behaviors and all the negativity, whether you're trying to be funny or whatever else, and the drive to get likes and boosts and retweets and all of that, the consequences of putting information out there, a lot of people don't think about it. They don't think about, "Well, yes it's private, no it's not. It could be posted by someone who was disgruntled, someone who's angry with me for some reason." if you post something public and it's reckless, then there can be consequences to that in the real world, not talking about moderation yet, but just the real world consequences. People have been sacked from their jobs, they've been thrown in jail for crimes related to like either admissions of guilt or because they have essentially like done, their tweets have led to fluctuations in stock prices, so things like that. Actually, recent example, Elon Musk. He tweeted about some kind of a private joke about marijuana 420 or 420, whatever the heck. That tweet cost him $40 million. David: Well, it was that and the fact that he blithely said on Twitter that he was considering taking the company private, which there are limits to what you can say in a publicly traded position like that and the SEC had some comments on it, you know? Oh sure, but I mean, absolutely right and I know I'm sort of like simplifying that a little bit but the whole fact is that that one, well I guess it was technically two or three tweets but irrespective that tweet cost him $40 million personally because he had to pay $20 million in fines to the government and then he had, then Tesla had to pay $20 million dollars also to the government but because Elon didn't want Tesla to be left short he bought 20 million dollars of shares in Tesla as a method of paying. So essentially he's cost him 40 million bucks. Yeah and he was forced to step down from the board right? He can still remain a CEO but he can't serve on the board? Or he's on the board but he's not the chairman, something like that. Yeah he's on the board but he's not the chairman for three years. But yeah I mean he cut a deal and it was a pretty odd deal but in any case. I guess my point is that it's not a safe space. You put stuff online, you post stuff online no matter what the form and the lower the barrier of entry, the lower the friction is, the easier it is to post it, the more reckless people tend to be and less considered. Case in point, Elon Musk. Anyway, I guess the point is you just, yeah, anyway, be careful what you post online, I guess. Dear me. So yeah, thinking about also how do you deal with bad actors? So just get into that now. I feel like there's gotta be a couple of layers of protection, I guess. First of all, and foremost, there's blocking. So you can just say, this person is being offensive to me directly. therefore I'm just going to block them so they can't communicate with me. And that's something an individual can do. Then there's moderating on a post by post basis. So you can simply say, "I'm flagging to some administrator somewhere that this post is offensive to me." So we'll moderate that post but not block the person or whatever else. And the decision's up to that authority figure of some kind to decide. And then of course there's all the way which is banning. And you can basically, I suppose the criteria will vary but if they get 20,000 people complaining and they have to moderate that many posts from this particular user, then I might just ban the whole user to be done with it. But the problem with those last two like moderation and banning is it requires some kind of centralized authority. And that centralized authority needs a set of rules. And those rules need usually, because of the scale of most social networks, they can't just be one person. group of people and they need to execute those rules in a balanced way. And which point then, the problem is that the usage guidelines that may not be 100% clear cut and sometimes it comes down to opinion. In which case, should this person be banned? One person in the group might say they should, another one might say they shouldn't. Some don't get banned because the offensive people or people that are getting a lot of these people responding to the moderators and saying, "This guy is horrible. Please take him off the platform." They're the very people that the platform want to keep on the platform because they're the ones driving all the interaction and all the engagement and that's what they want. It becomes a mess very quickly. Well, there's also, I mean, when we talk about this, we can't not discuss the fact that the value proposition for the business is vastly different than the value proposition for the user. And Twitter, for example, has very vocally said, "We stand for free speech." And that's That's fine, and I respect that, but their definition of free speech to date has included death threats and abusive language and other things, and how they've chosen to enforce their rules has been sporadic. They kind of look at one thing differently than another. I think they're starting to come around and look at abuse differently now, but for a very long time, a lot of stuff, it wasn't deemed okay, but it wasn't deemed offensive enough to be bannable because it fell within what they considered to be, I don't know, First Amendment rights. They're not a government institution. They're a private company. point they could have said, "We don't like this behavior. We don't like what it's doing to people and we don't like how it's changing the culture of our product and the world at large." But as you said, the engagement and the things that they were focused on, their metrics for success were so misaligned with any kind of social judgment or guidance that It continued to fester to the point where it is now. And that, you know, getting rid of bad actors, it is one of those things where you have to weigh a lot of things, you know, and, and decide what's truly important. But I have a real hard time with a company that posits that they are this driving force in the world. Uh, you know, for, for change and for good, and that implicitly approves this kind of behavior or just ignores it really and allows it to fester and grow and become as destructive as it has been. There's no balance there. That doesn't equate in my mind. Like I said, I think it's starting to trend in the right direction, but just using them as an example, there's too much allowance. There's too much latitude for people to say the wrong things. And again, I know this is a slippery slope. I get that. I'm not discounting that. But when enough people look at something and go, that is destructive. Not, I don't agree with that, or this isn't the right opinion, but that is abusive and destructive. As a society, we have to be okay with saying, yeah, okay, that's not cool. We don't want that here. And again, like they're a company. They're not a government institution. They're not beholden to allow everything to occur because, you know, law. They can say whatever they want. It's their house. If you come in and track mud all over my floor, I'm not going to invite you back. Like, they have the ability to do that. And they haven't. Yeah, that's true. Their inactions in certain respects have been as damning as some of their actions, which is interesting. And the funny thing is that the company driven approach and achieving that right balance of what to censor and what not to, who to ban, who not to, and so on, and balancing that against your engagement and what they would claim as a social responsibility, that's a very difficult balance to strike and perhaps maybe impossible to strike because someone somewhere will disagree that the balance point has been reached. because it's all about their perspective as well. And funnily enough, one of the things that enticed me originally to Mastodon was the fact that it was a distributed platform in which case you could have many different administrators, one or more in fact, multiple administrators and moderators for an instance and you can have thousands of instances all around the world and there's no one central authority. And at first glance, that appears to be potentially a good thing because that would mean that you could go and be on an instance that is more aligned with your views, in which case then the moderators would not ban you because their views and your views are more likely to align. But something interesting happened about a month or two ago at time of recording. I'm not sure how much you heard about this one or not, but something happened to Will Wheaton when he came across to Mastodon. And the funny thing is that if you're a moderator and you're on Mastodon, I guarantee you a few things. One, you don't have investors and venture capitalists backing you. I think that's a pretty safe bet at this point. No one's got millions of dollars backing their Mastodon instance. So, that means that most Most of the stuff that happens on Mastodon is on a volunteer basis or some of it's funded for our Patreon for example, different funding methods, LibraPay, there's a whole bunch of different options but the fact is that most of it is done on a pretty low rent kind of system. People are doing what they're doing because they have limited time, minimal funds and so in that sort of scenario, if you get a lot of people saying, "Please ban this person, please ban this person, the simplest and easiest thing to do is to just ban them and then the problem will just go away and the noise stops. And so the problem with that approach is that there is in fact no longer any balance. There's no impartial jury of your peers. There's no judge or no consistent judge. There's no fairness and there's no balance at all. It's just a matter of, "Oh, lots of people are angry. I shall get the angry to go away." And that's essentially what seems to have happened to Wil Wheaton. So irrespective of what you may think of Wil Wheaton, not necessarily the point, but he came to Mastodon and was essentially mobbed out of Mastodon. Oh, okay. Yeah. Because a few people, well I say a few, quite a few people took exception to him for different reasons and there's a long story there. I don't really want to go into the details of it, but there'll be a link in the show notes. The whole thing is all very sad in both directions and dimensions. It highlighted the fact that moderation on a distributed platform with minimal funding is a different spin on the problem, but it is still a problem. The other side of that is moderation on a non-federated platform like Twitter is still a problem because even if you, you know, you had said you get rid of this person causing the noise and then the noise stops. But we know that's not the case because people will pop up with different puppet accounts and do things, you know, anonymously. And if one account gets closed, they open another one and they keep spewing, you know, hate. So that's that's another thing where that felt to me less like a it was it was more like a gesture like, okay, we'll, we'll close this account that everybody says is abusive. And then it pops up again and you have to go through the whole process again of like, okay, this is the same person. And it's like, well, is it the same person? And that felt like something that could be solved with a technical solution. Like, okay, let's talk about IP blocking and things like that. Like, we know this is the same person because they're coming from the same IP address moments later with a new account, but they didn't want to take those steps either to say, okay, we're going to limit this. And again, even that has boundaries, right? Someone leaves their house and goes and connects to another network. Now they're on a different IP address. So it's, it's, it, I think you said it earlier. It's like a game of whack-a-mole where you, you know, these, these things pop up. You push them down, they pop up again, you push them down. But there, there isn't a clear and easy solution because I think, again, it comes down to the erosion of a social contract. people feel like this is acceptable behavior. It's been codified in our culture that like everybody gets to say no matter how awful and horrific it is. And everything is assailable, facts, opinions, anything. It's up for grabs and people seem to be okay with it until they're not. - Yeah, exactly. And I'm glad you brought it back to that because that's the next thing I wanna have a look at. Let's translate this into a real world situation. That is to say, if you were in a social setting in the real world and you behave the way that you behave such that in the social sense you would get moderated or banned or blocked, what does that look like in the real world? Because in the real world, if you have a bad day or you take out your frustration on the people in the room and then leave the room, then the number of people that you've offended most likely is maybe a dozen of people, maybe, in the room, unless you're some kind of public figure and you have a fit on the stage with a hundred people or a thousand people in front of you, whatever. But the point is, not many in the grand scheme of things. Most of the people in the room are going to very likely know you. Generally speaking, unless you've got a camera rolling or a microphone recording, there won't be any recording, no recorded audio or video of what happened. People get distracted with their own lives in following days and weeks and not a very long time, we'll just completely forget about it and move on. I mean, unless you really, really offended somebody, I guess, and they might hold a grudge for the rest of their life. But generally speaking, that seems to be what happens. No evidence really, life goes on, shrug, no problem. It's okay, you had a bad day. We forgive you, that kind of thing. But on the internet, nothing really dies if someone cares enough to keep it alive. And even deleted tweets, people screenshot and retweet so that you can't delete it because then the tweet that you tweeted, the screenshot is embedded as an image against someone else's timeline. You can delete your tweet but you can't delete their tweet. And Google never forgets anything even though it says it does. You got Wayback Machine. There's a whole bunch of different ways of getting up cached pages and cached histories. I guess what I mean to say is that if you screw up online, there's going to be a record of that screw up for a very long time to come. Then you're not only offending anyone that comes across that post at the moment you put it out or just shortly thereafter, but it's for all time and perpetuity. It could be 10 seconds after you post it, 10 days, 10 years, God knows how long. And they could be in the next room, like your kids or your spouse reading your timeline because sometimes they do that. And they're like, "What are you tweeting about?" I'm like, "Nothing." The next, they could be in the next street. They could be the next neighborhood. They could be in the next town, city, state, country. And if Elon gets his way, the next planet probably. But anyway, so the point is they could be anywhere. And the scale of the offense in the internet is enormous. And I just, I find that people seriously underrate just how, how, how responsible they really should be when they, when they think about it, or they should, when they should consider thinking about it like that. No, you're absolutely right. And I think part of the reason for that is that, as you said earlier, it is so easy just to say stuff kind of flippantly into that little box and then post it and it's out there. If nobody reacts immediately you forget about it. You don't even think you know There's no there's no like kind of gravity to what you said. It's just gone into the ether But I mean I've seen I've seen recently cases where I think it was a journalist or someone you know posted a tweet that To some people was offensive You know like eight years ago, but no one no one was offended eight years ago and taken in context today people found that tweet took umbrage with it and said well this person's a bad person because they said this and and the person was like I said that eight years ago and I like I Didn't even you know is it a different place in my life, and like it doesn't mean what you think it means so even if you Even if you do something innocuously that seemingly disappears even if you don't delete it someone can Reread it in a different context and reframe it in a way And then like you said earlier this ends up becoming You know the foundation of a takedown campaign where they don't like you and they're going to leverage this as much as possible To undermine whatever it is you're trying to do and wedge itself between you and your livelihood or whatever that ends up being so Yeah, I mean this is something that adults can't even grapple with let alone young people so it you know we There's such a permanence to everything on the internet in every possible capacity like you said even when you don't think there is and I don't think we've ever in our culture experienced that kind of Permanence before with anything no matter how much written history or record we kept Nothing fully disappears once it's there. Yeah, and that's the truly scary thing. Storage is cheap and getting cheaper and higher and higher density and there's more and more computers and it seems to be - there was a time when I said it would not be possible to keep all of the information in the world and record it down every moment in time but to be honest, looking at the acceleration that we're going at, it certainly seems to be doing a pretty good job of trying of trying but anyhow, there's another key thing I want to talk about specifically regarding Twitter and Facebook. I know we're running long but I've got to bring this up and that is the shift from sequential timeline to an algorithmic timeline because I kind of see that as a turning point in social and I guess just for context, in the beginning, everything was sequential. That is to say if you posted at 11.01 in the morning, I posted 11.02, someone follows both of us, that someone would see your post first and then mine and that was that. Pretty simple. Yeah, you know, straightforward. But the problem was that with social gaining in popularity, people started following lots and lots and lots of people. So they couldn't read everything. And you know, the bright sparks would say, "Well, why not show the most liked or retweeted or most read posts at the top of the timeline and we'll just use an algorithm for that. I think simplistically, that was the intent at least at the beginning. Some people actually revolted against Twitter in early 2016 when they introduced the algorithmic timeline and I think about a year ago, I'm trying to remember exactly when it was but I can't recall. It was in 2017 sometime. Twitter added the ability to uncheck a selector box which is show the best tweets first so could actually deselect that. That's enabled by default of course but you could at least turn it off now. But the fact is that from a Facebook point of view, it's even harder. You don't see everything anymore without digging for it in Facebook. And although there are ways people say that you can bypass the feed, you can - like you can - there's a system you can work around it and get everything going sequentially back like in the old days that doesn't hide posts or whatever. I personally tried that but I couldn't be bothered trying to keep ahead of a juggernaut like Facebook that keeps changing their algorithm up. Essentially algorithmic abuse I guess you could call it, it's quite like the next stage of social corporate whereby the company will lock down apps and APIs to force you to go via the view that allows them to force the algorithm on you. Because if you could pull the data through an API, then you could pull the data in chronological order and that would be fine and they couldn't stop you. But if they force a view upon you, then they control what you see first and they control what's pinned to the top and they control that via their algorithm. The goal seems to be a lot like the newspaper with the newspaper's front page, but it's It's one - this is the funny part. It's like a newspaper but it's one that you've customized for yourself to an extent and you've adjusted and they've adjusted your likes based on your reactions to drive you to have more engagement. The funny thing is when I was thinking this through, I'm like Twitter and Facebook and I guess Facebook's worse for this. It could actually become like a self-driven, self-rage machine and it's been built with mirrors. And it all starts with you. Yeah. It's great. Absolutely. Yeah. It absolutely would do that because the data that you feed it is the data that you will be returned. I see this from a different perspective, admittedly a little bit more nefarious, but probably just let's not ascribe to malice what we can ascribe to in competency. A platform takes a stand and says, "We believe in free speech. We think everybody should have a voice here." At the same time, they're willing to implement an algorithm that is based on what you have interacted with so far within their system and what they think you need to see. So they're now creating a scenario by which you will be only exposed to information and yes you could dig and whatever but we all know most people won't. You are going to be presented with information that they think is valuable to you as opposed to all of the voices that you have chosen to hear. And so that creates a very troubling scenario for me because we We know algorithms can be affected by bias. We know that companies don't always have our own personal best interests in mind, despite what they'd like us to think. That has the potential to now reshape individual consciousness, group consciousness, geographical consciousness about events and color scenarios very differently because it has chosen for us what to see. Again, it's hard for people to go to different places and verify information and do that stuff and they see what they see. This kind of thing takes that to another level and now basically says, "Don't worry about all these other things. That's not even important. What you need is this." If that, what they're presenting is either based on our worst instincts or what they have deemed important for whatever reason. I mean, I'm saying they obviously they would say, "Oh, it's an algorithm. It's all programmatic," but people made the algorithm. People will tweak the algorithm to serve the company's needs. That's just the way this works. You have even less ability to discern veracity and meaning from that kind of experience. They're taking that and trying to make it "better" for engagement, but what they're actually doing is completely eroding the ability of an individual to look at information the way they want to and make their own decisions even further. Exactly. And it also allows for further distortion of reality because they can actually do ad insertion into the feed, which can then make it harder to tell what's an ad, what's an advertorial, what's a post. The other thing is that it can also be used to influence by putting topics that they want people to be engaging with ahead of topics that are actually popular. They can actually say, "This is a really popular post." You don't know that. It just so happens to be about the US election. You look at it and it's like, "Yeah, but that's not actually – none of my friends have liked it. Oh, but there's lots of other people in the world that have liked it so you might find it interesting." It's like, "Yeah, but –" People don't think like that. "Oh yeah, it's at the top of the feed, it's all good, so I'll look at it first." And then people start to trust what they're reading in their feed and the priority that the algorithm would set for them. Then what essentially Facebook and Twitter have created is a platform for influencing the masses and whether it was their intent or not, that's what seems to have been happened. So it seems what's happened. And the algorithmic timeline was the turning point, I think for me. And it's sort of, I think about it, it's like it's akin to the power newspapers once held. I mentioned a few times before, it's like, and to some extent, I guess some newspapers still do have some of that sway to influence public opinion. And now that lies with a whole generation that get their news from social media. Yeah. Well, the difference there, I agree with that wholeheartedly that, you know, newspapers could always suffer from that same editorial bias, like, well, this is front page news and this we're going to bury. I think the difference now is that whereas before you could pick and choose to look at different newspapers and most people did, they had a favorite or they would get two of them and read this one and this one and compare the stories. Now you've narrowed information down to so few sources, so let's just call it Twitter and Facebook to grossly oversimplify, but I don't think that's inaccurate. narrowed information down to these two pipes and people will no longer go anywhere else. And this is this is their source of truth. So whatever is coming up in that algorithm, good or bad, that's the source of truth. And like you said, it's definitely. It's susceptible to a lot of not great outcomes. Yeah. And just I think a couple of cases in point recently, and I say recently in the last two or three years, maybe the five year window that you suggested is a good one to go with. The idea is that, well, okay, I guess I was saying more the two, three years because I think that's when the algorithmic timelines were both active on both platforms. I'm thinking of things like Brexit and I'm also thinking like the US election, for example, where it's been shown there's been several studies into the influence that stories in social media swayed enough individual opinions that collectively that moved the overall outcome more decisively one direction than may have otherwise been. And that's the thing that's concerning, because that's kind of like, it's almost like the militarization of social. If you're trying to manipulate things, it's possible to do that now, whereas previously that was a lot harder. I guess you could have newspaper editors in your pocket and that a real thing, right? And to some extent, that's probably still the case, but this is a completely different vector for that kind of misinformation. So that's kind of a bit of a worry. And the other thing about social that I find just if we move away from the governments and corporate angle, just from individuals, if you've got a lot of followers, then sometimes, yeah, think about militarization. I mean, sometimes these people that are quite popular with lots sorts of followers can turn their followers and rally them either directly or indirectly against individuals or corporations via social media. So all it takes is someone who's got a million followers to say, "This guy's a jerk," and suddenly all it takes is a couple of fanatics out of those million followers to simply say, "Right, we're going to go and burn the guy's house down or something crazy." like that happens. And it's like it's some kind of a, they're inciting a mob to descend upon them. And I guess it's an internet mobbing, for the want of a better way of putting it. And social has enabled this to occur, which is something that previously was not possible. Yeah. It is an amplifier and an exacerbation of the worst parts of societal interaction. So now that we've said how horrible it is, there's got to be something good here. So there have to be, I guess if, I don't think that social networks in and of themselves fundamentally are necessarily bad because the social network itself is as much about the people that use it as it is about the network. But in the real world sense, we have policing and we have like etiquette, I guess, for the one of a better thing, which we'll talk to a little bit more in detail in a minute. But I suppose I was thinking about what are the characteristics of a good social network? And I say technical characteristics because honestly, I think the people side of things is the people side of things. But technically, I think you need to have good and consistent and functional privacy controls. So consistent is important, right? Facebook keep changing theirs every few months. They mess with them and everything defaults back to public again. You got to go in there and switch it off. It's infuriating. They need to be consistent and they need to be functional. Like if it's private, it is private. It can't just be a well it's private if the other person's private and if it's fully encrypted or some kind of bunch of provisions and like Mastodon for example like privacy and direct messaging is somewhat controversial and then so on, right? So anyway, but I guess the other thing to consider is I mean even if you do have privacy controls, you really should be considering like they say in broadcasting, treat every microphone like it's live. Well treat every post you post no matter where you post it as being everyone can see it. If you took that approach, then you'd probably be a heck of a lot less stressed and a lot less exposed anyway. Another one is that it needs to be consistent and timely moderation tools and that applies both like an individual can globally apply that or on a post by post basis and then of course there's the other side which is the administration, the user moderation and banning by an administrator or moderator class of user. Then I guess the other one I thought of was just being able to be - an individual needs to have that individual flexibility for selectable moderation and spam control. So they need to be able to block people, they need to be able to filter on keywords and keep that out of their feeds. Those are the three main categories of what I think would help a social network to be as good as possible technically. Do you have any other thoughts on that? No, I don't think so. I think those are some pretty core tenets that you could stand behind that give individuals the ability to control their experience. I think that's really what it comes down to is that if you're going to ask everyone to join this thing, you need to give them some level of autonomy and confidence in that their interactions are going to be what they expect them to be and not constantly pulling the rug out from under them or changing because your business goals have changed. There has to just be clarity and transparency throughout. I will just say I'm pretty down on social networks now because of where they are and the impact that they have on us individually and as a culture. The truth of the matter is I loved them for a very long time. I met a lot of great people there. I have a lot of friends that I consider really good friends in my real life because of social networks. I mean we met via social networks. It's worth remembering that there is value there to be derived. I won't go as far to say it's just a tool, it's how you use it because if you try to reduce it to something like a hammer, the hammer is not going to tell you how you should be hammering nails. You have to make choices about that and social networks will tell you how you're supposed to be receiving information, which is I think a fundamental difference in looking at it in those terms as a tool. I'm, you know, I've said before, I will never begrudge anyone their, you know, willingness or desire to engage in these, in these forums and do these things. If you get value out of it, terrific. That's, that's really great. I just think that like so many things in life, it's worth really constantly examining what the value is that you derive from it and reevaluating. Is this something I think is still improving my life or is this making my life, you know, somehow worse? And just, you know, having a level of self-examination to it. But it's hard for people to do that because things move quickly. Most people don't want to think at that level. And I think that's why that's why I'm so disappointed in everything, because I loved it for so long. I saw so much potential and had so much fun with it. And then I watched it crumble. And I think that's why I'm so staunchly opposed to the way things are now, because I I feel this personal loss and it's not easily fixed with technology. It's not a technology problem. It's a it's a society problem. Well, exactly. That is more or less my conclusion in all of this is that no matter how good technically you give the user individual controls and you have a good moderation system and it's consistent in all the things that we spoke about, ultimately this seems to be a human problem rather than a technical problem. And I was thinking about this for a long time recently, more so, I guess in all of human history, we've grappled with social interaction and yeah, if everything is calm and collected, it's not an issue. You know, it's, it's when there's conflict, usually that there's problems. And from a conflict point of view, we developed, uh, concepts like sacred sites, for example, where weapons and bloodshed are sort of banned, forbidden and where negotiations could be had and you put aside your differences without fear of your own wellbeing being compromised. Another concept is like parlay, for example, for negotiations where attacking during parlay is considered the height of offense. More modern concepts, things like demilitarized zone. But beyond negotiations, preventing people stabbing each other and stuff or shooting each other or worse. Trying to get in ahead of that, society sort of, we developed this idea of basic customs. They were observed to show respect for other people and a shared common courtesy, perhaps people would just call it courtesy, I guess. And the first documentation of that was way back in something like the 13th century in Europe somewhere. And I guess the focus on there was just on etiquette and different, I guess, decorum, I suppose. But I remember the 18th century, it sort of became thought of more as gallantry where you display sensitivity and kindness and consideration. It's something that's more sophisticated, but it doesn't mean you feel that way, but you present that face. And that was considered to be kinder and better and less inflammatory. And in the end, that all boils down to what we consider manners. And that's just another word for etiquette, I always thought. And I looked up the definition of it and it delineates expectations for social behavior according to contemporary conventional norms within a society, social class, or group. And which is a very long wind of saying, "Well, manners." Yeah, manners. Everyone knows what manners are, apparently, but that's the gist of it anyhow. And the thing is that these things evolved so that we wouldn't offend other people. And the other thing that's interesting also, I thought about this briefly, is politics and politicians speak the art of not saying anything. But it's actually interesting because I hate politics. Like, I really don't like it at all. And I've thought about people that succeed in politics, they're able to talk in inoffensive ways and sometimes that does mean talking without saying anything but it's actually quite difficult to do it well in a way that you don't offend people, at least you know some politicians have that anyhow. So yeah it depends but and obviously politicians are obviously very good at you know convincing people and you know they're probably just a bunch of just backstabbing plotting jerks but irrespective never mind. The point is that But it is still an art to convey a message without offending people in the process. And especially if you're trying to convey a point inoffensively. So I feel like in order to replicate that in social media, then you need to be an effective, I suppose, politician when you're communicating to a point. So everyone needs to have some kind of political, you know, prowess of some kind in when they're conveying ideas. But more importantly, there has to be some kind of established social media etiquette, if you will, like on the medium that you're communicating on or some basic rules for how you interact on social media. And there's a whole bunch of stuff, if you think about it, that's already out there. And I don't know if it's formalized in books or whatever. Maybe if listeners have examples, feel free to send them in. But I mean the reality is that things like just conventions like caps lock is shouting, please don't shout on social media. Simple things like that but there's more to it. I don't know. I guess, yeah, what do you think? I think we're doomed. I'm just kidding. I think it really comes down to how people want to interact with one another. I think these are solvable problems, but I don't know that there's a clear and defined path to a solution. I think it needs to continue to evolve and maybe generationally there will be a shift where we've seen this degrade and then we'll see new generations of people who say, this isn't how we wish to interact. We want to have more respect for one another. We want to change the narrative around how we conduct discourse with one another and we want to make the world a different place. And nothing lasts forever. Facebook has 2 point whatever billion people on it, but nothing lasts forever. It can be supplanted by something else and something better or something worse. And I think it's incumbent on individuals to decide how they want this to go. Because if everyone collectively decided that this was not the path and decided to stray from it, Facebook would implode. You know, with no one there, it's not a social network anymore. I know that's inconceivable just because of the numbers of people that are there, but I don't think it's impossible to do something better. I think it just comes down to people taking personal responsibility for how they want to conduct themselves and how they expect a certain level of decorum in their interactions with other people. Tom: Yeah. I think that the ultimate result is going to need to be some level of stricter enforcement of an agreed etiquette. The silly thing is that as a species, we seem to be going in this endless cycle. We seem to be doomed to fail at this because we fail, we learn, we introduce manners and etiquette and then we create a system where it gets thrown out the window. Now we have to go back and relearn and then refail and relearn and reforget and then start again. It just seems like it doesn't matter what social circles they are, networks, different communication mediums, different methods of interaction with each other. We seem to end up going in cycles and coming back to the same place. I feel like it's like wherever you go, there you are. You can't run away from yourself. The idea is that the problem, no matter what you do with a social interaction, no matter what tool you choose to use, the problem is us. We have to address how we manage ourselves with proper etiquette on a social network no matter what it looks like. And I don't often like to quote US presidents. I think I mentioned before, but the fact is that one of the ones previously who was quite okay, I thought, "Be careful what you post on Facebook because whatever you do, it will come up later in your life." There's a link in the show notes to who said that. But in any case, I think that's always a good words to consider. I guess your suggestion that Facebook will crumble, absolutely will at some point. There's no question. It's only a matter of when. And eventually, the same with Twitter. And when people are done with Twitter, and I actually see signs of that already accelerating, then the people will simply move to distributed social media platforms eventually. And it may not be Mastodon. It could be another one like Pleroma. It could be I mean it could be goodness knows what. And at the moment with federated protocols, you've got IndieWeb and ActivityPub are the two most popular ones that don't really directly talk to each other. But once that debate settles and we can then cross-federate, then you can be on Mastodon and I can be on and we can comment on each other's posts and so on. And then whilst that's generally probably the way to go, the federation will mean that no one corporation can ever control anything and we're back to what the internet was supposed to be, better or worse. But no matter what system you do, no matter what technology you're using and what features it has, in the end, you're not really ever off the hook for being a jerk. So don't do what Donnie does or don't be a social media jerk, Donnie or whatever. Just be nice to people on social media today because you probably just, you really should and yeah, I'm at the end. Tyrone: Yeah, I think we did it. Gideon: Oh man. Well alright then. So if you would like to talk more about this, you can reach me on Mastodon at [email protected] or you can follow Engineered_Net on Twitter to see show related announcements. If you're enjoying Pragmatic and want to support the show, you can like some of our Carson Hanson and John Whitlow. They and many others are patrons of the show via Patreon, and you can find it at, all one word. Patron rewards include a named thank you on the website, a named thank you at the end of episodes, access to pages of raw show notes, as well as ad-free high-quality releases of every episode. So if you'd like to contribute something, anything at all, there's lots of great rewards, and beyond that, it's all very much appreciated. Just remember, if you're not in a position to support the show via Patreon, that's totally okay. You can still help out by leaving a rating in iTunes, favoriting the episode in your or of the show in your podcast player app of choice, whatever you like to use, wherever it's supported, of course, or by just sharing the episode or show on social media. Yes. Anyhow, it helps other people to find out about the show. And that's also very much appreciated. I personally like to thank ManyTricks for sponsoring the Engineer Network. If you're looking for some Mac software that can do many tricks, remember to specifically visit this URL, for more information about their amazingly useful apps. Pragmatic is part of the Engineer Network and you can find it at along with other great shows like Causality, which is a solo podcast that I do that looks at cause and effect of major events and disasters, including Three Mile Island, the Challenger Space Shuttle, and lots and lots more, Concord, Hindenburg, you name it. Anyhow, Causality is actually on track to overtake this show as it keeps growing in popularity. So if you If you haven't given it a shot yet, make sure you give it a try. Now, if you'd like to get in touch with Seth, what's the best way for people to get in touch with you, mate? Not Twitter. Seth: Yeah, I guess you'll have to get in touch with John because I'm done. Yeah. I don't really think I have any remaining public inputs. If you liked this, please let John know and hopefully John will let me know. Tyler: Okay, I'll pass that on. Fair enough. to the other podcast that Seth does periodically, which is, what's it called again? Seth: Fundamentally Broken with Tim Nahumick. Tom: There you go. Fantastic. Yes. And whilst they say they're fundamentally broken, they're okay. They're fine. They're really okay. And it's a great podcast. Seth: Yeah. Speaking of self-examination, that's a show about real self-examination. We like to give ourselves a hard time, but it's fun. Tom: It is fun and I'm glad you're making it. Seth: Well, thanks. Oh, you're welcome. And a special thank you again to our patrons. A big thank you to everybody for listening and for sticking with us for this very long and complicated topic. So yes, thank you for listening everybody. And thank you, Seth. Thanks for having me. Anytime. [MUSIC PLAYING] (upbeat music) [Music] [MUSIC PLAYING] (upbeat music) [MUSIC] [MUSIC] ♪ ♪ [MUSIC PLAYING]
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Episode Silver Producers: Carsten Hansen and John Whitlow.
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Seth Clifford

Seth Clifford

Seth is CIO of Nickelfish and he also appears on the Iterate podcast.

John Chidgey

John Chidgey

John is an Electrical, Instrumentation and Control Systems Engineer, software developer, podcaster, vocal actor and runs TechDistortion and the Engineered Network. John is a Chartered Professional Engineer in both Electrical Engineering and Information, Telecommunications and Electronics Engineering (ITEE) and a semi-regular conference speaker.

John has produced and appeared on many podcasts including Pragmatic and Causality and is available for hire for Vocal Acting or advertising. He has experience and interest in HMI Design, Alarm Management, Cyber-security and Root Cause Analysis.

You can find him on the Fediverse and on Twitter.