Tag: internet (page 1 of 17)

Teaching kids about anonymity

This website, riskyby.design, is a project of the 5Rights Foundation. It does a good job of talking about the benefits and drawbacks of anonymity in a way that isn’t patronising.

Chat app with anonymous user

Online anonymity can take many forms, from pseudonyms that conceal “real” identities to private browsers or VPNs that allow users to be “untraceable.” There are also services designed specifically to grant users anonymity, known as “anonymous apps”.

Often conflated with privacy, true anonymity – the total absence of personally identifying information – is difficult to achieve in a digital environment where traces of ourselves are left every time we engage with a service. Anonymity is best considered on a continuum, ranging “from the totally anonymous to the thoroughly named”.

People have lots of reasons for being anonymous online. While anonymity affords a degree of protection to people like journalists, whistle-blowers and marginalised users, the lack of traceability that some types of anonymity offer may prevent people from being held accountable for their actions.

Source: Risky-By-Design | 5Rights Foundation

Spring ’83

John Johnston put me onto this via a comment on my personal blog. Spring ’83 is a protocol developed by Robin Sloan, multi-talented developer, olive farm owner, and author of novels such as Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore.

The internet these days is much less fun and weird than it used to be, which is sad. Here’s an example of the protocol in action at the site spring83.mozz.us and you can have a play about at The Oakland Follower Sentinel by creating your own keypair (see the blue sidebar!)

For me, the recent resurgence of the email newsletter feels not much like a renaissance, and more like a massing of exhausted refugees in the last reliable shelter. I’m glad we have it; but email cannot be the end of the story, either.

I’m dissembling a bit. The truth is, I reject Twitter, RSS, and email also because … I am hyped up to invent things!

So it came to pass that I found myself dreaming about designs that might satisfy my requirements, while also supporting new interactions, new ways of relating, new aesthetics. At the same time, I read a ton about the early days of the internet. I devoured oral histories; I dug into old protocols.

The crucial spark was RFC 865, published by the great Jon Postel in May 1983. The modern TCP/IP internet had only just come online that January, can you believe it? RFC 865 describes a Quote of the Day Protocol:

A server listens for TCP connections on TCP port 17. Once a connection is established a short message is sent out the connection (and any data received is thrown away). The service closes the connection after sending the quote.

That’s it. That’s the protocol.

I read RFC 865, and I thought about May 1983. How the internet might have felt at that moment. Jon Postel maintained its simple DNS by hand. There was a time when, you wanted a computer to have a name on the internet, you emailed Jon.

There’s a way of thinking about, and with, the internet of that era that isn’t mere nostalgia, but rather a conjuring of the deep opportunities and excitements of this global machine. I’ll say it again. There are so many ways people might relate to one another online, so many ways exchange and conviviality might be organized.

Spring ‘83 isn’t over yet.

Source: Specifying Spring ’83 | Robin Sloan

Losing followers, making friends

There’s a lot going on in this article, which I’ve taken plenty of quotations from below. It’s worth taking some time over, especially if you haven’t read Thinking, Fast & Slow (or it’s been a while since you did!)

Social media inherited and weaponised the chronological weblog feed. Showing content based on user activity hooked us in for longer. When platforms discovered anger and anxiety boosts screen time, the battle for our minds was lost.

Till this point the fundamental purpose of software was to support the user’s objectives. Somewhere, someone decided the purpose of users is to support the firm’s objectives. This shift permeates through the Internet. It’s why basic software is subscription-led. It’s why there’s little functional difference between Windows’ telemetry and spyware. It’s why leaving social media is so hard.

Like chronological timelines, users grew to expect these patterns. Non-commercial platforms adopted them because users expect them. While not as optimized as their commercial counterparts, inherited anti-patterns can lead to inherited behaviours.

[…]

In his book Thinking Fast And Slow, Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman describes two systems of thought…

[…]

System 1 appears to prioritise speed over accuracy, which makes sense for Lion-scale problems. System 1 even cheats to avoid using System 2. When faced with a difficult question, System 1 can substitute it and answer a simpler one. When someone responds to a point that was never made that could be a System 1 substitution.

[…]

10 Years ago my life was extremely online. I’ve been the asshole so many times I can’t even count. Was I an asshole? Sure, but the exploitation of mental state in public spaces has a role to play. It’s a strange game. The only way to win is not to play.

Commercial platforms are filled with traps, some inherited, many homegrown. Wrapping it in Zuck’s latest bullshit won’t lead to change. Even without inherited dark patterns, behaviours become ingrained. Platforms designed to avoid these patterns need to consider this if exposed to the Dark Forest.

For everything else it’s becoming easier to just stay away. There are so many private and semi-private spaces far from the madding crowd. You just need to look. I did. I lost followers, but made friends.

Source: Escaping The Web’s Dark Forest | by Steve Lord