As people have been banned from one major platform after another, one common response has been, “build your own platform”. Of course, it’s not as simple as that. Platforms need infrastructure to run on, and if every hosting provider decided to not offer someone service, corporate censorship can kill a website. Parler made the mistake of tightly coupling their website to Amazon Web Services (AWS). The weaponization of the courts essentially made their contract with AWS entirely worthless. Parler’s response makes me question a lot of their core business decisions, and their future.
People may have flocked to the new network because Parler promoted themselves as an alternative to the current social media landscape. Yet Parler has made critical mistakes with their infrastructure stack, and arbitrary decisions about what content to allow. Parler also suffers the same failure points as any centralized social media platform. To paraphrase Obi-Wan Kenobi, “This is not the free platform you are looking for”.
I’ve grown increasing concerned over the way big social media networks have been manipulating large swaths of the population. Many of them compete with, and are actively aggressive to, smaller independent platforms. I rarely ventured onto the large platforms except to promote my own material. Yet, the growing audacity of these networks and their blatant manipulations of human thought and perception, has led me to the point where I feel I can no longer ethically use them. I decided that even using them passively for promotion was no longer morally acceptable. In February of 2021, I deleted my Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. I’ve potentially cut myself off from a large number of acquaintances I’ve know throughout my life, yet I’ve always had my own presence on the web which I control and promote. The people who truly matter, will always be able to find me.
Having 25,000 troops in the United States Capitol is not a sign of strength. When Biden was sworn into office, he looked incredibly weak. January 20th was not an inauguration, it was a coronation of a king who has taken the royal throne way past his prime. It had the iconography of a religious gathering, with every attendee’s face covered in literal symbols of fear. Biden is not a president, he is a Pope coming in near the end of his life, to prop up the ceremony of a dying religion, from a dying era. His presence sends a dangerous message to the world: America is corrupt and is working to get its people under control.
Home storage is not very expensive today, and the magic of the cloud is more fragile than ever. We hear story after story of accounts getting locked, suspended or terminated on platforms like Google, Facebook and Twitter, often with little to no explanation. Thanks to certain legal requirements around the world, you can usually make full backups from these services. This is a quick guide on how I regularly backup my data. It’s pretty easy and everyone should have a reminder on their calendar to do this at least twice a year (or until you loose access to your calendar).
A few weeks ago, my account on Hacker News, a Reddit like aggregation site for technology links, was banned. My five-year old account received zero warnings before I got a comment from a moderator. Recently, I also discovered from a friend that this website, BattlePenguin.com, has been shadow banned on Hacker News. To any user submitting one of my posts, the submission will look as if it’s successful and appear on the new page. However, if one switches to a private browser, they’ll find that the submission does not appear.
I cross promote new articles on this blog across several platforms, some that are even hostile to smaller websites. Typically, promoting on various platforms doesn’t guarantee additional clicks unless you actively participate on that social network. Hacker News was one of the few sites I enjoyed participating on. I knew it was heavily moderated, but I liked how it generally pushed articles specific to programming, hardware and technology, and avoided more controversial topics.
Facebook is openly hostile to its own users. It blocks private messages with links to content Facebook does not approve of, and the types of content that are blocked or allowed, should greatly trouble people. They practically hold our data hostage, and have put considerable roadblocks in place over the past several years to make it more difficult to access information, even for developers. In 2014, they intentionally manipulated posts to make certain users more depressed in an experiment that should have made everyone reconsider their interactions with the network. On the surface, many casual users may not notice how Facebook’s hands have grown tighter around their walled garden of data, but for developers and content creators, the signs are everywhere and should trouble everyone.
The much anticipated Cyberpunk 2077, after delays, was finally released in December of 2020. I probably wouldn’t have purchased this game at launch if it wasn’t for the fact I found a pre-order deal for $45. With the low price, I had fewer regrets as I entered a world of stunning yet demanding graphics, rich story and endless game bugs. Only one glitch I encountered affected game progression, and it was already patched in an update I had put off. At first the bugs were just hilarious, and usually they made the game play easier. Yet as I progressed, they became increasingly distracting. It’s a shame because the world building was so meticulously constructed, the voice acting was high grade and the story above par for a video game. It’s tragic that all the artists, writers and animators made such amazing assets that were overshadowed by a tragically horrific game engine. Cyberpunk 2077 is a game that brought to life a genre that I’ve always enjoyed, yet it honestly should have targeted at least six months of additional development.
Living within a city, it’s often nice to be able to get out and explore local parks and recreational areas. Google Maps used to be a helpful tool for finding public parks and forests. Many wilderness areas were colored green. Even though some of them were not public parks, the color coating helped narrow down areas of interest. A recent update changed this behavior to make zoomed out views of maps rendered entirely in green, for anything that isn’t an urban area. This change isn’t reversible by an option, layer or preference, and makes Google Maps more difficult to use for one of my favorite use cases. This isn’t the first time Google has broken their online maps or introduced a terrible feature. Thankfully, there are open source solutions and alternatives.
I really enjoyed playing the first Spider-Man for the Play Station 4. The controls were fluid, the graphics stunning and the gameplay felt like you were in the universe of the comic books, filled with high paced action and campy dialog. I was looking forward to its sequel as a launch title for the Play Station 5. Spider-Man: Miles Morales has the same fast paced gameplay as its predecessor. However, the story was not as well constructed. There were many elements that felt like they were pandering to our current political culture, some dialog made me cringe, and the game was considerably shorter than the original. Still, the mechanics drew me in, the graphics were beautiful and the missions were challenging. I enjoyed playing it, although it did mostly feel like a set of expansions to the original with no truly noticeable changes.
Sites like Reddit and Hackernews allow people to vote stories up or down. Users collectively rank the values of user submissions and comments. The Hivemind. It can lead people to create and discovery great things, or just enjoy funny cat videos. These sites filter content through a combination of their moderators and the masses. With that filter comes bubbles, echo chambers and group think. Only the most commonly held opinions are given a voice. If you want to break free of orthodoxy privilege, you need to change the way you use these websites, by reading comments from the bottom.