slackz

Thoughts on politics, community organizing, computing, etc

Okay, this is an important thing that has happened over the last 24 hrs: Cloudflare shut off service to 8chan, and 8chan is now down. There is a whole lot to unpack about this story...

https://www.wired.com/story/cloudflare-8chan-support-ddos/

Firstly some background... it's important to understand why Cloudflare is so pervasive and why it comes up with stories like this about 8chan and Daily Stormer. Cloudflare isn't a hosting provider, it isn't directly responsible for the site's domain name or the actual machine running the software; cloudflare is a security buffer for the internet and what it does is pretty unique and useful. It helps protect a website or other internet services from certain categories of attack. From a certain level of server anonymity to denial-of-service attack mitigation, Cloudflare can be a beautifully useful tool for dissidents, non-profits, independent journalists, and decent content creators of all sorts. It also attracts the most despicable of actors trying to make their hate speech and vitriol and violent incel incubators as available as possible.

So... what's the big deal about 8chan getting the boot? It's now open mother fucking season on that cesspool of racism and misogyny. Hence why that scumbucket of an internet site is currently down (as of the time of this writing).

Anyways back to Matthew Prince, CEO of Cloudflare with his own brand of see-no-evil, lazy ass, morally emaciated libertarianism... Prince (yes the infosec mogul not the war profiteer of Blackwater infamy (no known relation cause I have better things to do on wikipedia, so WHO KNOWS?!))... anyways, Prince did the most basic shit finally under immense pressure but for all the wrong reasons.

He is right about one thing: this won't stop 8chan from being online. Whether via slow ass tor or though some even more ethically bankrupt net service co, 8chan can zombie its way back to all the pathetic rage-filled forums of frustrated, violent white men. But it'll be hampered somewhat... some link that doesnt open on a standard browser, some space more vulnerable to DDoS, made slightly less available for mainstream consumption...

But all this aside, Prince's narrative about content neutrality isn't about some profound issue of ethics or slippery slopes; it is simply rationale for his complicity. Does refusing service to literal neo-nazis make it more likely to bend to oppressive regimes when they apply pressure? No. It just means your business isn't functionally enabling neo-nazis. In fact, Prince's emphasis on U.S. laws completely undermines whatever sanctimonious soap box he thinks he's standing on... so as long as a regime that cages immigrants in concentration camps can ink up a court order from an administration appointee, Cloudflare is more than happy to turn over whatever records right quick... so much for privacy/security. But refusing service to white supremacists and future domestic terrorists, woa woa woa, “we're not like the internet police”

Prince is either unfathomably naive or very much aligned with the internet bigot party he has fought so hard to shield; deciphering which is not nearly as important as recognizing that this is not someone who should have nearly as much power as he has in the digital world.

Imagine a Terms of Service agreement that simply stated the following: “Under no circumstances will we provide services to companies, organizations, or individuals promoting (or failing to moderate) racist, misogynistic, or bigoted content. Clear violation of these content standards is cause for immediate service termination.”

Clear. Unambiguous. Replicable. Basic. Fuck these fake arguments about neutrality and ethical quandaries about content moderation. Establish values and then hold to them fiercely. Matthew Prince is a coward and an enabler.

I began listening to Startup and Reply All shortly after their inception. Besides This American Life, Gimlet's early programming was my first exposure to proper podcasting. I had never heard anything like it – well-produced, fully engaging, informative, somehow familiar, emotionally powerful. Trekking through internet paths less traveled with Alex and PJ. Keeping up with the tumultuous journey of Gimlet's making. I am deeply grateful for what y'all have made and I have followed these stories carefully.

Just a few days ago, however, I hear that #Gimlet will be acquired by #Spotify for more than $200 million. Despite the many hints at such a move, this still came as a shock.

In some of the early eps of #Startup, Alex Blumberg ruminates about how Gimlet's name should reflect its mission. I wish it was American Podcasting Corporation at this point. I have no love for corporations, or for a US-centric view of media, but at least it would be a reminder of what you have done up to this point – podcasting.

Merriam-Webster defines a podcast as “a program (such as a music or news program) that is like a radio or television show that is downloaded over the Internet.” This isn't just semantic, this goes to the core of what Reply All and so much of your other programming is – incredible audio shows made available over The Internet.

The Internet. Not Itunes, not Spotify, not the next walled garden of big tech. The Internet.

You have broken the essence of what you are; and your listeners' relationship with the work you do will never be the same.

To be clear, I 100% support your staff getting paid and y'all growing the brilliant content you offer. This costs money and ground-floor Gimleters have worked their asses off to build what you have. PJ, Alex, Sruthi et al deserve stability and recognition for their work. Whether it be ads, paid access to archives, merch, etc, of course Gimlet must monetize all this hard work.

But Spotify is not the way.

It is well-known that independent musicians make an inexcusably small amount from streaming on spotify (https://www.digitalmusicnews.com/2018/12/19/zoe-keating-spotify-2018-payout/). Spotify's model is not to encourage people to buy albums. It doesn't drive people towards directly supporting artists. It is a platform middleman that has deeply changed the way many people listen to music. For the worse. And while users mindlessly click through the same overplayed lists, tech execs and investors are hitting jackpot on everyone else's work (a reflection of the “share” economy, where the Ubers of the world take as much as they can, while others take on the work, risk and responsibility). For these and other reasons, I do not, and will not, use spotify.

Beyond these issues, spotify is NOT a podcasting tool. It may superficially work as an app to listen and subscribe to podcasts. And perhaps spotify subscribers won't notice the exclusive and inaccessible contracts that make content spotify-only, but plenty of others will never get to listen to what's behind those spotify.com links.

So in investor lingo, I guess this is Gimlet's “exit.” A departure from actual podcasting and the original principles which built Gimlet's shows and audience. And all this makes me deeply sad.

Thoughts, comments? Fediverse comment link

Please note that this video contains textual mention of an asylum seeker fleeing horrible violence, domestic abuse, sexual assault, etc. It also tells a piece of one particular story about family separation and immigrant detention. This is Nilda's experience:

Here's a link to video if you have issues with the above embed

A colleague of mine shared the above video on our work chat. As much as our government tries to dehumanize these asylees – we know that each and every human seeking refuge in the United States or elsewhere has a unique and urgent story...

Despite the US's long history of turning away refugees, asylum is a human right under international law. These rights are sacred for a reason. They are for those fearing for their life, for their children's safety, trying desperately to keep food on the table and just live. This is why we fight.

Support asylum seekers.
Support organizations supporting asylum seekers. Until all of us are free, none of us are free.


Wondering how to help? Hit me up on the fediverse

I love write.as

Not only is it everything I wanted from a personal blog / publishing tool; it is so much more than that. It is also a community of writers and creators.

On read.write.as I've already stumbled upon interesting and enjoyable reads I never would have seen otherwise. I can browse and follow blogs on the #fediverse or through #RSS.

One thing that I immediately wanted to do though, was provide a way for ppl to engage (and similarly engage with authors whose work I am interested in). Just heard about remark.as which is currently being developed and I'm excited about.

But there is also a simple tool already available to us: links to fediverse posts :)

So here is my proposed convention (and something I'm going to do myself). As the last line of write.as posts, I will include a fediverse link. Please know it'll take a sec between when post is live and link is included (lil catch-22 there :) Also this is my personal fedi account since the federation account via write.as is not hosted, thus doesn't contain a shareable link.

Hope this is a useful way to make space for engagement if that's what authors want. Lol, obv not so much with the anonymous posts


Thoughts, comments? Fediverse comment link

Over the past year I've dropped several massive Internet “services”. Google, Amazon, Facebook, Github, Twitter, Spotify... gone. I've also adopted / embraced a plethora of other tools – #Mastodon, #RSS, the #Gopher protocol, #Jabber, #MPD (for local music). Besides the privacy / security / moral reasons for these changes, another theme has emerged from these transitions: the primacy of simple, user-controlled, user-generated content.

The constant distractions, bloat, and exploitation of Internet data is pervasive and deeply impactful. Facebook hires neuroscientists to make their platform as addictive as possible. Web behemoths invest copious resources into locking us all in. “Engagement” online has often been reduced to swiping passively through endless timelines, reflexively checking notifications, increasingly detached and impersonal. All carefully constructed for ad revenue and commodification.

Breaking away from these modes of being online (especially given how much time I spend personally / professionally in front of a computer), has been both tumultuous and cathartic beyond words. Losing youtube/fb videos, having to invest time in migrating server infrastructure, not being able to rent / buy digital media as easily, not being able to click on music links from my colleagues, reckoning with not seeing my comrades' work online since most post on Facebook... these have been deeply difficult changes and it's clear as hell why folks become very tied to these platforms. And yet, every one of these decisions has been critically necessary and has been fully in line with my principles and has opened up an entirely different world.

There is a gorgeous renaissance happening right now on the web. Federated, user-hosted, decentralized services. An ethos of eschewing corporate control and state surveillance. And the focus is directly on user-generated content. Artists, engineers, independent journalists, teachers, workers of all kinds... it is an environment by, and for, the people.

When I joined the #fediverse I was immediately blown away by the cultural shift. Finally a social media platform with strong privacy and moderation controls, a beautiful and modern UI, clean and solid fundamental design. A place for nerds and leftists, for queer and trans comrades, for folks marginalized across a spectrum of identity. This is our fucking space and we will make it the vibrant, supportive, radical, visionary place we deserve for engaging / connecting online.

From a bunch of fantastic fediverse convos and subsequent research, I've ventured into all sorts of beautiful tools in a similar space:

  • RSS – a divine mechanism for managing feeds of content (news, youtube vids, fediverse profiles, blogs across the web, etc); (check out FeedReader for *nix and Feeder for android
  • Gopher – as old school as The Net, this protocol on port 70 is a brilliantly simple way to serve up plaintext and other content in a hierarchical way (yup, just throw your stuff in directories on a server, and have it displayed in your favorite client (be it lynx for *nix or Pocket Gopher for android). lol, I have a secret hope that write.as will someday support gopher integration :)
  • Jabber – bringin' the chat back!! I'm running Prosody for my server which supports OMEMO / OTR / PGP encryption, group chat, etc), and I looove the Conversations app for android. You know you miss the days of ICQ / AIM; so pure. Get on that train! :D
  • MPD – Spotify / pandora had fundamentally poisoned the way I listened to music. I fucking love buying albums. I love listening to discographies. Hip hop, Irish folk, classical, good R&B... The Music Player Daemon is an incredible tool, a music server that lets you connect on whatever client you want from multiple places, stream music, create playlists, view all the ID3 tags. And with a gorgeous ncurses-driven console client like ncmpc, it is truly a joy to navigate and appreciate an entire music library

These shifts have opened up new communities and incredible content and I think these technologies and spaces share a common thread: one where we are liberated from corporate exploitation and constant surveillance; one where we take notice when our friends and comrades stop posting or are having a hard time; one where we are spending our time reading and writing and sharing and organizing; one where our content is our own and the focus of our digital spaces.

We are the Internet we've been waiting for.


Thoughts, comments? Fediverse comment link