Social Media

When I was a kid and my parents first paid for AOL, it opened up an entire world for me. While I could talk a lot about the web (even the crippled web that AOL enabled for me) what I remember most was participating in forums as a middle schooler.

And nobody knew I was in middle school.

Forget about predatory people trying to abduct me or whatever. I’m talking about a more immersive, more effective way to learn as a kid. I was able to ask questions to complete strangers and usually get answers that were mostly better than what I’d get at school.

Of course, a lot of the questions I asked were about computers and software. It’s what led to me learning about DOS batch files, and eventually Q-BASIC and once that happened, the hobby was unstoppable.

Even before Stack Overflow, the web was an amazing place to get help when you were stuck on a programming problem. What was I supposed to do, ask my parents? My teachers? My friends? None of these people had any idea what I was doing.

We all know what’s happened with social media – it’s essentially taken over the social layer of the internet. Forums are ghost towns, and private communities are difficult to find. I won’t even touch the topic of how Twitter and FB have adversely affected our society. Others have done that ad nauseam.

Personally, I’ve removed Twitter and Facebook from all of my mobile devices and I stay logged out on my laptop. I use them almost exclusively as a distribution channel for things like this blog, telling my friends and family what I’m up to, and more. I do have some lingering people who still insist on using Twitter DMs – so I do occasionally log back in and check those.

It seems inevitable to me that FB and Twitter are doomed. I don’t know how they will die – slowly or quickly, if it will be competition or regulation that does them in, but on their current trajectory they seem to have no way out. (Reminds me of that old Sun Tzu quote from The Art of War: Always leave your enemy an exit route.) Maybe they’ll turn it around and figure out how to both return profit to shareholders and be a force for good, but I wouldn’t bet on it at this point.

I think we’ve learned that making the world a more connected place might be a good idea if you’re trying to stitch all of the world’s human beings into one giant hive mind of emergent behavior. But for the health of many of the individuals, that is not a great idea. I don’t want to be just a worker ant in a colony.

I do often wonder what the future of social on the web will be. Will it be exclusive private communities like Clubhouse? Will we all use next-generation forums? Will the social world splinter into discussion networks, photo-sharing networks, “stay in touch with family” networks, and so forth?

Ideological Competition With China

Many of the party’s most opprobrious policies — from cultural genocide in Xinjiang to ‘interference’ operations in foreign countries — are an attempt to address threats to the party-state’s cultural or ideological security. CCP directives warn cadres of forces that threaten to “dismantle [their] party’s social foundation.” The threats identified are not military, such as the American nuclear arsenal, or geopolitical, such as the US–Japan alliance, but are instead concepts like “independent judiciaries”, “universal human rights,” and “Western freedoms.”

From Yes, We Are in an Ideological Competition With China

Recommended.

Agave

I’ve really been enjoying working on Agave with Jared. There are lots of reasons, but I want to focus on one in particular.

At first, it was a little weird starting a company with someone while remote from the start. Jared’s in Mountain View, I’m in South Lake Tahoe. We were using the standard toolset: Slack, Zoom, and various documentation tools like Notion. For awhile it felt fine – just like every other remote team, I imagine. Scheduled zoom calls in our calendar, various slack channels for product discussions, growth ideas, and random Red Alert gaming taunts.

But something has changed over the last 2 to 3 weeks. The product has gotten to a point where it now feels like we’re in the same room. I don’t mean in an abstract way – like “he’s around when we need to talk about something”. It’s more visceral than that – we can see each other. There is a strong sense of presence, compounded with a type of video interaction that often feels spontaneous as much as it is useful.

Remember bumping into your coworkers while you’re waiting for the coffee to brew in the office kitchen? Or taking a break on the couches just chatting with someone from the marketing team?

That’s what I’m talking about.

We don’t even use Zoom anymore.

One of the things that makes this work is the cross-disciplinary nature of the product. One look and you know it’s not your typical web or mobile app. It’s something new. It has elements of video game design and game rendering challenges just as much as it has the API design of a web app. There is an element of desktop OS interaction as well that is fairly unique.

It is a crazy fun challenge to take these ingredients and produce a recipe that works well and makes you feel something strong.