Microscope party

September 19th, 2018

Today I held a microscope party, with luck the first of many. It was simply this: My wife and I happen to have several microscopes, most people don't, and microscopes are fun. I invited over a bunch of people and gave suggestions on objects to bring. It was a blast, and if you or a friend happen to be equipped to do so, I can heartily recommend holding such a party yourself.

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How can a privacy-positive social media site gain meaningful adoption?

August 18th, 2018

There is a fundamental tension when designing social media software with a focus on privacy: The more posts are set to friends-only access, the harder a time the network will have in gaining adoption.

Since social media to a large extent lives and dies by network effects, some combination of these are necessary to grow the network beyond a critical threshold and keep it lively. It must also stay reasonably competitive with other social media systems in attracting users. There are many reasons a person might choose to 1) create an account and 2) "friend" other users rather than sticking with what they already have:

  • Being encouraged to by their existing friends
  • To see what all the fuss is about (if it's in the news)
  • By seeing interesting posts by people they may or may not know

Privacy-positive social media software is by default at a disadvantage in the last category. How can it be made competitive with the likes of Twitter and Facebook without compromising on values? In this post, I consider the notion of "socially local privacy" as a partial solution to the discovery problem.

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Don’t use Marcaria as a domain registrar

August 8th, 2018

(I don't usually take to my blog when I feel wronged by a company, but after all it is the traditional recourse when appeals to customer service fail. Feel free to skip this post if you aren't domain shopping.)

I registered a domain with Marcaria last year because they were one of the few options for .ps domains. (Normally I would have gone with Gandi or NameCheap.) They were offering, and are still offering, $49 as an "annual price" for .ps domains. That's their wording. You can see it on their live site as of this moment, although of course they may change it after publication.

And then yesterday I went to renew.

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I want online social networks akin to offline social networks

April 18th, 2018

Ruminating more on what my ideal social network would achieve, I realize that it really comes down to one thing: Offline social networks ("meatspace", interacting with friends and acquaintances in person) are pretty amazing, and our current online social networks do a terrible job of replicating this. I'd like to capture some of what I think we're missing, without losing sight of what we also gain.

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Goals for an ideal social network

April 1st, 2018

I want social space online, but none of the social media software currently in existence meets my needs. Beyond that, I believe that many of the offerings are actively harmful to privacy, security, and democracy. I know many people feel the same way, but can't opt out for lack of alternatives. Clearly it's time to build something new. Something that's useful, effective, and responsible, but also attractive. What elements will it need?

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