Anti-social media

I doubt whether this is the only post with this title being written this week.

I have to admit that my usage of twitter has shrunk to just the casual glance at Notifications, and certainly not the eyes-glued on the twitter-stream that it used to be.

Ah! Those were the days. When I used to tweet about my journey on the bus to all and sundry during the early days when I was the self-appointed social media evangelist (or maybe it was even a role I’d been asked to lead on at Cardiff University). As an early adopter of twitter in 2007 I just thought it was wonderful. It complemented the blogposts I wrote, and advised folk of the existence of yet more pearls of wisdom that I felt it necessary to promulgate. I was chatting to an extended circle of friends, family and colleagues who I wasn’t likely to see that day, week, month, or even year. It kept me in touch with like-minded folk. I was also able to laugh with Stephen Fry, and a few others who I didn’t know, but whose views I respected. All was well in the twitterverse.

Things of course changed over time, and I won’t detail those changes, and of course we arrive at the state of play we have today. Quel domage. Things will never be the same again for twitter. I will probably still post notifications of blogposts – perhaps even this one – on my profile, but it will be done with a heavy heart.

Others have written that this could mark the end of twitter, and even the beginning of the end for open public discourse. I’m not going to get into that discussion, but I am going to reflect on the journey of social media and ponder aloud whether there is a way ahead for respectful open discussion on the internet.

Let’s start with Facebook. {Must we, everyone who might read this will know how much I dislike Meta and all it’s done to the pre-advert, pre-tracking, original Fb, then Instagram, and then later still WhatsApp} All that was good about the concept was lost in the need to monetise the platform. And its our fault! If we didn’t want/need to get something for nothing, if we didn’t put a value on software or the service that was being provided, it was inevitable that Fb would go down the path it went. The rest is history. Bye, bye Facebook – for me at least.

Then there was Google+. Great idea; great concept; but again Google was unable to monetise what became a closed social community. Google had been able to get marketing information from its other services – Gmail, Photos, Maps, etc etc, but Google+ wasn’t bringing in any revenue. It had to go, erstwhile under the excuse of security holes that were too difficult/expensive to fix. A lame excuse imho.

I’ve dealt with my worries about WhatsApp previously. Suffice to say that I still don’t trust Meta, and so my stance on using the application is unchanged. I lurk (as I do on Facebook and Instagram by the way), but I don’t contribute and I always Log Out when I’ve finished lurking!

And so we arrive at Social Media 2.0, or perhaps I’ll call it Simple Social Media for Simple Folk, or What you Want is What you’ll Get – remember WYSIWYG. People want segmentation, to be able to communicate with others of a like mind, in a safe, unpolluted space. Whilst in that space they don’t want to be shouted at, trolled, insulted or bullied – for that they can stay on twitter.

I’ve thrown myself into using Signal. I have many groups that I’ve either created, or am a member of. It’s easy to join, or leave, a group, and I use it as a substitute for Messaging apps as well for 1-to-1 chats. Keeping all such communication in the same place. Its an Open Source platform, and the happenings of the past week are making me think I should subscribe to it, to help ensure its survival. I evaluated some alternatives here and here – and plumped on Signal and Discord. The latter got me thinking of whether it was possible to have an open group/channel in Signal that you could join – like twitter; but I have rolled-back on that idea. I rather like the peace and quiet of Signal. If I want noise I can always go on Discord.

So that’s where I am. A bit of a rant, some reflection, and a lot of regret that an old friend is going the way of other old friends.

Perhaps the lesson to be learnt is that if something is worthwhile and important in your life – pay something to use it. Don’t expect to get anything for free without compromising something – and this most probably will be tracking what you do, security concerns and almost certainly a loss of privacy. Subscription services are not really that expensive. You pay for your mobile phone service, why balk at paying for the software that runs on it?

Also, consider using Open Source software wherever possible – the people who contribute to writing it almost universally have their hearts and minds in the right place – so help them with monetary contributions to keep them going. [Did you know that the code that forms the basis of WhatsApp came from the original Signal team.]

Papa Smurf goes bananas

Papa SmurfWell … what a day in social media world I had yesterday!

At an unearthly hour of the morning I received a text from my son to say that he always read my blog posts because even though he might not understand them – he always felt that he ought to, just in case there was something he could actually TALK to me about … rather than just converse via Google+ (we live approximately half-a-mile away from each other)!

This was then followed by a Google+ comment from my sister – also before I’d fully woken up, and finally my wife (away for a few days) who wondered what was happening to her Google+ app on her iPhone which was being bombarded by posts from me.

By this time I’d observed for myself that for some bizarre reason, three really old posts on an old blog were being published to Google+. Why? How? I couldn’t see to the problem immediately – I had to give DJ a lift to the airport. Then I had to attend to a central heating problem and then, to cap it all (and by the time I’d sat down) – the broadband was down and wouldn’t be up until the afternoon, meaning I wouldn’t be able to do more than sticking plaster stuff on the blog until I could get full access. So I just disabled any plugin that could in any way be associated with Google from this blog and deleted all the posts from Google+, put up an apologetic post and hoped I’d arrested the flow of “spam” posts.

I hadn’t 🙁

By the time I got the broadband back it had become obvious that the problem lay with my dormant former “Just thoughts …” site and by now, exasperated and fed-up with deleting Google+ posts I took the nuclear option and just nuked the site! It’s gone, no more, I’ll get a proper redirection in place as soon as possible but for now all you can see is a simple index.html file – is no more 🙁

Brainy SmurfWhat caused all this heartache? I don’t think I’ll ever know … what I needed was access to Brainy Smurf to provide all the answers. Was it an out-of-date WordPress installation? Was it a change in a Google+ API? Was it just Friday 13th? I don’t think I’ll ever know. Certainly not now, as the website has been sent to the Room 101 of websites where all redundant and unneeded websites should go. I sent a follow-up apologetic post.

A while ago, I posted on revising my blogging strategy and the need for simplification. I think I need to review this yet again.

Why the Smurfs … I think you need to ask a couple of great friends that question.