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Semiformalishmaybe

Bloglike Modalities

Chewing again on online speaker-oriented communication.

One of the occasional bits of friction I've seen between people (and gotten grumbly about myself) is online posting etiquette. How frequently do we get on our soapbox, how long do we talk when there, what do we talk about, etc. Some of these problems are smaller with technology - in RSS/Atom we have summaries we can do of posts, in blog software we have the ability to have folding sections (in LJ, the pseudo-HTML "lj-cut", which inspired the "cut" feature in my blog software), etc, and by seperating the media we use we can approach the problem another way. Still, the amount of freedom and actual variance out there in the field overwhelms the current generation of software. The problem is not technically sophisticated, it's just one that's difficult to approach a priori.

I've slowly come to use twitter (a bit) over the last few years, and I've been blogging since 2001 (there was an earlier attempt at getting into it that I may glue before existing entries someday, pushing my start date back further). I've come to slowly accept the social distinction in content between blog posts and twits, although it still feels pretty artificial. I'm with jwz in that I find the "I shall crosspost all my twits to my blog" trend really irritating, which is primarily because it guarantees I will not want to friend them on twitter, but ...

I still don't like the twitter friend model. With blogs, people who take the effort to use folding (lj-cut or whatever) generally don't tend to flood (post large amounts of garbage that fill up a viewing area) and the only irritant is if they post a large picture, a lot of pictures, or they make a typo and their folding doesn't work. With twitter, there are some people who post upwards of 30 twits a day which is awfully irritating to people like me who just use it for occasional witticisms, mild observations, and highly temporally-sensitive postlets. I don't want another person who posts like I do to be flooded away by a frequent twitterer, even if I sometimes might want to read the deluge. Maybe I should use the twitter "list" feature for this? One answer, which I really don't want to do, would be to dust off or rewrite my big information-scooper software, teach it how to present the appropriate cookies to scrape or get a private feed from nonpublic posts, and stick some intelligence behind that.

In the long run, I believe that the right thing to do would be to teach people basic programming and give them nice APIs (and a wrapper framework) to specify exactly what they want done to pull information together as they like. There's no way for a software developer to anticipate all the reasonable things people might want to do.

With such a decentralised model, I don't know if we can ever expect "best practices" to dominate - blogging is too personal and we easily adopt the metric of "if you don't like how I post, unsubscribe from me". Atom/RSS just make things worse (socially - they're very useful from other perspectives). Without tools that literally might summarise or reshape other people's information feeds when necessary (goodness yes I will remove the advertisements you stick in there, dude you post little things too much let's merge a lot of that stuff together, oh no another paragraph about topic FOO let's fold that because I don't normally want to read it, ugh giant image let's fold it, oh hey that's a tracking image no thanks, this person often has obnoxious javascript in their posts, etc), it's hard to be happy subscribed to a lot of people.

Comfort with doing these things requires us to not get too caught up on authorhood - I'm entirely comfortable with this, as part of a very big concept that spans Death of the Author all the way into narrative and copyright disregard (although, as always, if I get content directly from people I know, particularly those who have not published them, I will generally respect their wishes as a personal favour or condition). The way I see it, there's a concept of releasing something as culture, and once it's released anyone can do as they like with it so long as:

  • People do not claim to have created it who did not (for works where it is possible for it to be accidentally recreated by independent agents uninfluenced by the original, I am unsure how it should be handled)
  • People note if they have modified/covered it rather than retaining a claim of authorship for a modified work (unless such modification is so trivial as to be indistinguishable, e.g. taking a video and playing it on normal equipment)
Certainly for text, I would like to see people take a very active hand in changing their web experience - there's a reluctance among some people, maybe inspired by concerns about copyright or by adverts, to use tools (e.g. Greasemonkey) to reshape websites, to chop songs into bits, etc. We should return to being a remix culture.

Side question: Is a focus on this another opiate of the masses, does it have revolutionary potential, or do we need some other framework for understanding it in terms of this? I take the position that deep cultural engagement is a positive thing and is a transformation that is worthwhile in any society regardless of social justice; the corrosive levels of individualism in American-style capitalism (particularly in suburbs and gated communities) must change. There is a risk that a cultural eudaimonia may essentially distract efforts at structural justice, but I don't think this is an intrinsic risk (just as liberation theology and many other modern interpretations of Christian, Judaist, Islamic, and other faiths have shown the Marxian analysis of religion as a barrier to efforts for a better society to be more an analysis of times past than a universal).

Returning more solidly to communication (oh goodness don't try to chart my topic drift), this is why we need avatars or their equivalent - we must embed our will into the system in a way that pre-sieves and organises information so our more immediate animal beings, with our temporal sensitivities and attentional issues, can interact appropriately with them. Idea of hoisting parts of ourselves out and into silicon and having them remain integral to our sense of self - a modern no-wires transhumanism. Given that I have written many tools that are part of my information environment, I have been treading knee-deep in this for years. Open-source in this sense is an almost spiritual joining of creative minds (well, often).

I'm very pleased at a general increase in my level of fitness - I'm not sure if it's the biking, an increased amount of home cooking, a now mostly-faded depression no longer playing with my health, or taking an effort not to eat beyond being satiated, but I'm getting trim in places that haven't been trim for several years. I figure my feet will be recovered enough to start jogging again tomorrow. rh33t

Recent dreams have involved sailing, -REDACTED-, and Iguanas swimming through the air as they did in a tub. There's always a bit of melancholy with the memories of people I knew, images and voices stolen to represent different parts of myself, but not so much with pets past. Maybe it's that I don't have to listen to them - shadows of cats don't have voices, and the shadows of Iguanas just have the goofy voices that I (originally Martha) gave them saying goofier things. Ahh, Muninn and Huginn, or perhaps spirit animals. To live in a rich world of stories - an option worthy of pursuit.

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