March 12, 2018

"It might be most helpful to compare a social network to a party. The party starts out small, with the hosts and a few of their friends."

"Then word gets out and strangers show up. People take cues from the environment. Mimosas in a sun-dappled atrium suggest one kind of mood; grain alcohol in a moldy basement suggests another. Sometimes, a pattern emerges on its own. Pinterest, a simple photo-sharing site founded by three men, happened to catch on among women aspiring to an urbane life style, and today the front page is often a collage of merino scarves and expensive glassware. In other cases, the gatekeeping seems more premeditated. If you’re fourteen, Snapchat’s user interface is intuitive; if you’re twenty-two, it’s intriguing; if you’re over thirty-five, it’s impenetrable. This encourages old people to self-deport."

From "Reddit and the Struggle to Detoxify the Internet/How do we fix life online without limiting free speech?" by Andrew Marantz (in The New Yorker).

I went to Pinterest to see if the front page was a collage of merino scarves and expensive glassware, and I couldn't figure out how to get there — it was impenetrable — other than as myself, the person who opened a Pinterest account to collect photos to show my hairstylist. So this is what I see on the front page:

Lots of chopped off hair — and one Jack Kerouac — but no scarves and glasses.

IN THE COMMENTS: Rabel corrects:
Three Jack kerouac's plus Women of the Beat Generation.
AND: Here's Kerouac on the subject of glassware:
What she was doing whoring in Mexico at that age and with that tender cheek and fair aspect God knows. Some awful grief had driven her to it. She drank beyond all bounds. She threw down drinks when it seemed she was about to chuck up the last. She overturned glasses continually, the idea also being to make us spend as much money as possible. Wearing her flimsy housecoat in broad afternoon she frantically danced with Neal and clung about his neck and begged and begged for everything. Neal was so stoned he didn’t know what to start with, girls or mambo.


Ignorance is Bliss said...

From "Reddit and the Struggle to Detoxify the Internet/How do we fix life online without limiting free speech?" by Andrew Marantz (in The New Yorker).

Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye.

Rabel said...

Three Jack kerouac's plus Women of the Beat Generation.

Henry said...

Pinterest is where Google searches go to die.

Henry said...

I deactivated Facebook again recently. I still post photos to Instagram which is refreshingly quiet.

Michael K said...

How is Instagram ? I am tied of facebook and all the lefty angry trolls.

Michael K said...


Nonapod said...

a fact that most social-media companies go to great lengths to conceal—that, no matter how neutral a platform may seem, there’s always a person behind the curtain.

The inherent problem with the ideas of neutrality and fairness when it comes to any attempt to police social media is that the very concepts of neutrality and fairness are often largely subjective. What seems fair to one person may seem unfair to another. And of course any would be human controller is going to have their biases and agenda. So you end up relying on consensus for fairness. But there's little consensus these days, just bitter mistrust which begets balkanization and bubble dwelling.

In hindsight it's kinda funny that most people seemed to assume that, thanks to social media, as communication between disparate people became easier it would naturally lead to more understanding and tolerance... and now just the opposite has happened. Humans have always been pretty bad at objectivity, balance, and fairness and good at tribalism and "othering". Social media just put gasoline on the natural fires of division.

James said...

"Hey Jim Kerouac-
Brother of the famous Jack
So he likes to say,
Lucky bastard.

He's sitting on the Cafe Xeno steps
With a girl I'm not over yet
Watching all the world go by"

Ann Althouse said...

I'm on Instagram — with 0 posts and 31 followers. People are following me nowhere.

SDaly said...

Been following you nowhere since Marginalia.

Rabel said...

"Pinterest is where Google searches go to die."

Add -Pinterest to the search term and you won't get pinterest links.

jwl said...

10,000 Maniacs - Hey Jack Kerouac:

Hey Jack Kerouac, I think of your mother
and the tears she cried, she cried for none other
than her little boy lost in our little world that hated
and that dared to drag him down. Her little boy courageous
who chose his words from mouths of babes got lost in the wood.
Hip flask slinging madman, steaming cafe flirts,
they all spoke through you.

Ann Althouse said...

"Been following you nowhere since Marginalia."

How could you possibly have followed this blog when it was Marginalia?

Rabel said...

"If no one is expressing morally outrageous opinions, then you don't have free speech."

Weren't you just calling for a ban on any depictions of bodily harm in film just yesterday. Maybe that was sarcastic and I missed it.

FleetUSA said...

And why don't we find a photo of the famous professor's hair style profile?

Luke Lea said...
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Luke Lea said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Luke Lea said...

I just want to say that, in my opinion, groups that try to limit free speech are the most dangerous hate groups of all.

I'm thinking especially of Google and YouTube. They need to trust the good judgment of the American people when it comes to the marketplace of ideas. The management of Alphabet needs to know that having free speech means people will say things that the overwhelming majority think are outrageous and morally offensive. In fact that is the test. If no one is expressing morally outrageous ideas, then you don't have free speech.

Or put another way, if you are going to be policing free speech then who is going to police your police? What good and necessary ideas might they prevent being heard, which, because they sound offensive at first, might never be heard in any other way?

Henry said...

Instagram allows comments, so perhaps people could get into political flame wars, but no one ever seems to do that.

Henry said...

Facebook is for angry drunks. Instagram is for happy drunks. Instagram is kind of boring, which is why I like it.

Henry said...


AJ Lynch said...

What do they want to fix about the internet that is so bad and frightening? Are the college speech police now spilling over the to the internet?

Sammy Finkelman said...

The New York Times ran two stories recently about what's wrong with the Internet:

The first one tells you how after someone watched some YOUTube videos of Donald Trump, YouTube started to recommend and “autoplay” videos for her that featured white supremacist rants, Holocaust denials and so on.

Wondering whether that was only and exclusively right-wing phenomenon,
she created another YouTube account and started watching videos of Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.

This time she was directed to videos of a leftish conspiratorial cast, including
arguments about the existence of secret government agencies and
allegations that the United States government was behind the attacks
of Sept. 11.

Wondering if maybe this also happened with non-political topics she
tried vegetarianism, which led to videos about veganism, and jogging
which led to videos about running ultramarathons

She writes this is not because a cabal of YouTube engineers is
plotting to drive the world off a cliff. And then reasons it more
likely has to do with Google’s business model

I think it's probably an unintentional flaw in the algorithm,

It's looking for things that people who watched a lot of these
candidate and other videos also watched, or maybe what videos it was
that people who also watched the Trump or Clinton/Sanders videos also
watched, and and the highest concentration of matches was probably
things on the extreme.

There are also fewer individual videos to pick from on the extremes.

The second article says that false news spreads faster and wider and
he thought and that was maybe because it was more startling.

I think that is a little bit misleading. Surely there are some true
stories also that are startling and novel!

The difference I think is this:

When something startling is true (attack on the World Trade Center
let's say) the news comes from a variety of sources. There's not going
to be one chief source that get forwarded and forwarded. Some will
forward CNN, some will forward a story in the Guardian, or from the
AP, the Los Angeles Times , and so on.

And a second limiting factor is that when something startling is true,
there will soon be followup stores that contain some later
developments or extra pieces of news. But there was no followup with
Pizzagate, at least not as fast, and even a carefully plotted "War of
teh Worldss" type thing will quickly run out of steam.

Luke Lea said...

Blogger Rabel said...
"If no one is expressing morally outrageous opinions, then you don't have free speech."

Weren't you just calling for a ban on any depictions of bodily harm in film just yesterday?"

I did. But can't we make a distinction between obscenity—which is about graphic visual images of sex and violence involving the human body—and speech, which is about words, symbols, and ideas? Today's Supreme Court might say not, but we might have another Supreme Court tomorrow. Maybe I am wrong, but these kinds of distinctions held up well in the past. What is to stop them from doing so again?

tim in vermont said...

Instagram is where politically obsessed liberals post there memes or hot girls try to parlay their looks into some kind of ersatz stardom, or worse, their boyfriends do it.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

Sammy Finkelman said...

I think it's probably an unintentional flaw in the algorithm

The purpose of the algorithm is to attract eyeballs to sell to advertisers. As long as it does that, the algorithm is not flawed.

It may have other unintended side effects, and if you don't want those, then you might need to design a different algorithm, which trades off some eyeballs in exchange for some greater social good.

Of course, don't be surprised if they are willing to trade away eyeballs for greater social good when it comes to avoiding right-wing extremism, but not so much when it comes to avoiding left-wing extremism.

Luke Lea said...

A graph from that New Yorker piece, much of which seems pretty crazy to me:

"Zuckerberg recently set a “personal challenge” for himself: “enforcing our policies and preventing misuse of our tools.” This seems to be a reversal for Zuckerberg, who was once a fake-news truther. Two days after the 2016 election, he said, “The idea that fake news on Facebook, of which it’s a very small amount of the content, influenced the election in any way, I think, is a pretty crazy idea. Voters make decisions based on their lived experience.” This was a pretty crazy idea, and Zuckerberg has been walking it back ever since. It’s obvious that what we see online affects how we think and feel. We know this in part because Facebook has done research on it. In 2012, without notice or permission, Facebook tweaked the feeds of nearly seven hundred thousand of its users, showing one group more posts containing “positive emotional content” and the other more “negative emotional content.” Two years later, Facebook declassified the experiment and published the results. Users were livid, and, after that, Facebook either stopped conducting secret experiments or stopped admitting to them. But the results of the experiment were clear: the people with happier feeds acted happier, and vice versa. The study’s authors called it “massive-scale emotional contagion.” Since then, social media has only grown in size and influence, and the persuasive tools available to advertisers, spies, politicians, and propagandists have only become sharper. During the 2016 election, a few Russian impostors affected many Americans’ beliefs and, presumably, votes."

SDaly said...

If I recall correctly, I followed a link from Instapundit.

anti-de Sitter space said...

+ (But, the best summer dates are reserved by folks who come every year.)


Good times.


Paco Wové said...

"During the 2016 election, a few Russian impostors affected many Americans’ beliefs and, presumably, votes."

The New Yorker becomes more and more blatant in pushing propaganda unsupported by evidence.

anti-de Sitter space said...

"The New Yorker becomes more and more blatant in pushing propaganda unsupported by evidence."

Ha ha.

So, tell me if I got this right. You (as an online con) are unaware of any evidence that Russia used online flim flam-ery to influence the minds of online cons such that these online cons were warmed re DJT, and they were simultaneously made more doubtful re things such as the suggestion that Russia attacked the minds of cons online.

Ha ha ha ha.

This blog is the best!

Henry said...

Technically, more than one vote is votes. Those dang Russians.