Why did we sacrifice our anonymity?

Throwback to a thoughtful essay from Justin Tadlock over at WP Tavern:

“We handed over our names. And, once we handed over our names, it was a slippery slope to handing over everything else about ourselves. If you dig deep enough you can find the names of all my cats and when they were all born.”

The Evolution of Anonymity in the Internet Age

I’m a fairly open person on the web, but sometimes I miss the anonymity of the 90’s and early 00’s. It was a unique mix of trust and distrust.

We could be more open with strangers, because we had a veil of anonymity to shield ourselves; but we also had a healthy dose of suspicion about everything we saw and read, because you don’t trust everything you see on the internet.

The mainstream social media platforms that brought more people online asked for us to share our real identities, and treated moderation as an afterthought. A total reverse of what older online communities preached: don’t disclose personal information, and respect the rules.

Where will we be ten, twenty years from now? My expectation (and hope) is that the pendulum will swing back to smaller, more niche communities and platforms; “dark social” with varying degrees of real identity versus anonymity, depending on the place. I guess we just have to wait and see.

The journey is the point.

“I’d submit that this emotional journey is one that transcends goodness or greatness or even a so-called mediocre project; I’ve experienced this lifecycle for projects that ended up entirely sucking from end-to-end! But the point is clearly the journey.”

john saddington

I’ve followed John’s work off and on for years, starting with 8BIT and the Standard theme, one of the greatest ever WordPress themes for indie publishers (IMO).

John is now off and running with a new project, YEN.IO, and once again our universes overlap: He’s sharing his journey of building a business around the community space through YouTube and his newsletter (the latter running through Substack).

Glue work

Every senior person in an organisation should be aware of the less glamorous – and often less-promotable – work that needs to happen to make a team successful. Managed deliberately, glue work demonstrates and builds strong technical leadership skills. Left unconscious, it can be career limiting. It can push people into less technical roles and even out of the industry.

— Being Glue (Tanya Reilly)

Fantastic talk from Tanya Reilly on the importance of “glue work”.

While Tanya’s coming at this from the developer/technical project manager role, it got me thinking about the importance of “glue work” in other areas, and how the perceived value of it depends on who you have for a manager.

I’m a bit of a volunteer junkie on my teams. Documentation, processes and reports are tasks I’ve bestowed on myself because I like the work and I know it’s helpful in the long run. Thankfully I’ve had managers who see and appreciate this. I’m grateful for that, and I’m sure it played a role in my promotions over the last few years. But not everyone is as lucky.

Case in point: Tanya explains how women usually find themselves taking this work on. It’s a question of stepping up and volunteering. Based on the research, women volunteer more than men. But unless their managers recognize the work, it goes unrewarded.

Artists tell the truth as they see it

At the end of the day, our job as artists is to tell the truth as we see it. If telling the truth is an inherently political act, so be it. Times may change and politics may change, but if we do our best to tell the truth as specifically as possible, time will reveal those truths and reverberate beyond the era in which we created them.

The Role of the Artist in the Age of Trump (The Atlantic)

We see this throughout history. Moments captured, stories told, lessons shared.

Artists take the world around them, interpret it, remix it, and leave behind some artifact of their place and time in history.

It’s one of the many things I love about traveling: visiting art galleries and museums, be it a local municipal gallery or a national institute, and just taking in what’s been left behind.

Our 3D printed homes of the future

Throwback to late last year in this piece from Fast Company:

Icon’s printer, called the Vulcan II, isn’t the first designed to build an entire house. But the new Mexican neighborhood, which will have 50 of the homes, will be the first community to use this type of technology at scale.

The world’s first 3D-printed neighborhood now has its first houses

Given all that’s happened since then — including an escape to the suburbs and an uptick in remote work as the new norm — I wonder if we’ll see more rapid residential development using 3D printer tech?

Silicon Valley and “community”

A short and thoughtful piece from Casper ter Kuile:

Venture capitalists are investing in companies that put community at the heart of their strategy. […] Just as social networks, especially Facebook, used the language of friendship to describe the simple act of allowing our attention to be captured by someone’s status update, we’re already seeing the denigration of the word ‘community.’ 

The danger of “community-washing” (Casper ter Kuile)

For those of us in professional community management roles (howdy), working for technology companies (yup), I believe it’s on us to defend the importance of putting people and meaningful relationships at the center of our work.

Community happens when members are part of the whole. It happens over time as visitors become regulars become leaders. It happens through participation, the give and take, of activities and shared experiences.

Chasing a “sense of community” is hard to quantify in a business sense, so we rely on other KPIs and biz impact metrics, but I think of those as proxies to the underlying feeling of belonging.

Casper’s parting words:

“This is what I hope those new tech CEOs can take to heart: we are only truly in community when we allow other’s choices to have consequences for us. Community can’t be consumed. It only exists when, to some extent, we allow ourselves to be subsumed.

Zoom fatigue

“So many people are reporting similar experiences that it’s earned its own slang term, ‘Zoom fatigue,’ though this exhaustion also applies if you’re using Google Hangouts, Skype, FaceTime, or any other video-calling interface. The unprecedented explosion of their use in response to the pandemic has launched an unofficial social experiment, showing at a population scale what’s always been true: virtual interactions can be extremely hard on the brain.

‘Zoom fatigue’ is taxing the brain (National Geographic)

I feel this. As a full-time remote worker for nearly five years, Zoom meetings made up the bulk of my day. Now it’s on overdrive with my old social reprieves — pub nights, occasional social outings, etc — being unavailable. At least we’re all in this together…?

MySpace’s killer feature

This week’s Tedium newsletter dives into the disappearance of design customization on modern social platforms (e.g. Facebook, Medium, Substack, etc).

Choice quotes on MySpace’s accidental power perk of custom coding:

“On the fly, developers Gabe Harriman and Toan Nguyen, building the site on the cheap, quickly rebuilt the platform in a language they knew. And in haste, Nguyen forgot to turn on a feature that prevented end users from adding HTML into forms. […]

MySpace was often a shitshow of profiles that broke apart because its killer feature was a product of bad coding rather than a well-thought-out concept, but it was still an important one because of what it represented. […]

In many ways, the happy-accident design solution MySpace uncovered by sheer chance might have cost us some true tinkering abilities in our modern platforms.”

No Room for Design (Tedium)

Tumblr — bought last year by Automattic, i.e. WordPress.com — was the last major social platform built with real customization in mind.

There’s more to the Tedium piece, including thoughtful bits about Facebook’s introduction of the news feed, and the implications of that decision on the evolution of social media and contemporary culture.

The great potential of subscription-driven media

Media companies have been desperate for new sources of income since their advertisers moved budgets to the likes of Google and Facebook. In the end, the salvation may be good ol’ subscription revenue.

From 2PM:

There is great potential for any subscription-driven media company to grow beyond its early intentions. If and when subscription fatigue begins to hinder the newsletter industry’s growth, the best and brightest will identify new mediums for their message and their engaged communities will follow. From YouTube to Vine to TikTok, this is what great digital creators have always done. They’ve outworked fatigue. It’s due time to place newsletter entrepreneurs in this coveted category.”

Memo: The Type House (2PM)

See also: