Social Media beyond Facebook and Twitter

Really got to thinking about this whole name thing, and the mass defection of some folks to Ello, a beta testing social media site hoping to be the next Facebook.  Fact is that there have been several would be imitators, or “FB Killers” that have been introduced, all to more or less a collective yawn.  I don’t know if it’s because they didn’t have the features people wanted, or because people hadn’t finally given up on FB being anything but a data collector for corporate America’s sales agencies.  It almost seems silly to be screeching about the NSA all up in our business when we gleefully hand information over to corporate agencies that monetize our data.

I’m leaving Twitter out of much of this.  I have several problems with Twitter and think even if it sticks around we need a viable alternative where one can say something that can’t fit in a soundbite.  I also don’t like the feeling that conversing on Twitter is a lot like having a conversation in the middle of a block party, where anyone can walk up and put in their own two cents.

I don’t find that a particularly useful form of dialogue, myself.

Facebook, at the moment, provides a very useful channel for people to communicate with one another across multiple boundaries, from geological to ideological.  Despite the fact that the people in charge insist up on treating FB as a means for people who already know each other to stay in touch, rather than a means of meeting like minded people all over the world.  I think this is a problem, and their rather sporadic and arbitrary enforcement of this policy isn’t helping.  And, seriously, do they HONESTLY believe that anyone has 5000 personal friends?  No.  They don’t.  They can’t.  So they’re bullshitting us right there.

In reality, this is all about monetizing the user.  That’s why they want people using their “real” names.  That’s why they want to restrict reach across the network, so they can entice people to pay to promote their posts.  If I post something to my friends–some of whom are fans–I want to know they actually GET IT.  At first they were limiting fan pages’ reach, but now it seems they’re starting to curtail personal page reach.

Or so it’s starting to seem to me.

Ello already sold its soul to venture capitalists.  Expecting to take off now is like expecting someone dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to get up and dance a jig.

We need a social network that is built for and buy the users, not folks looking to make oodles of money.  Why should extreme profitability even be necessary?  It would need to generate enough money to pay for bandwidth and overhead–Sysops and other tech savvy agents.  But it would make sense to pour as much of the overall profits back into the project rather than becoming a billionaire.

Of course, I’m not a product of the Ivy League and, while my major at the last community college was business administration, I’ll admit that was twenty five years ago.  But some things I grasp pretty well.  I grasp that one does better if one focuses on increasing demand.  Demand for the product–the “perfect” social media platform, has never been higher.  If one sought and found a way to meet that demand without getting bogged down in matters of excessive profitability.

One of the best things about social media is its ability to allow people from all over to meet and discuss issues of concern, or simply interests in common.  If used properly, it can expose us to notions and viewpoints we’ve never considered.

Right now I’m wondering if it might be possible to start something as a networking tool for artists, artisans, and the like, people looking to, perhaps, engage in a bit of mutual promotion.  I’m seeing this as a kind of in-house currency used to promote one’s posts IN PROGRAM.  The more you share other people’s stuff the more others share your stuff.  That can be rants, memes, or even commentary on a news event.  (One of the things I think FB fails at is allowing you to share the commentary made by some folks while sharing a news story.  Sometimes that commentary is more edifying than the story itself).

I see this mutual promotion model as being very useful for artists, artisans, and small businesses that may cater to such people, or even small businesses that operate in the various communities.  Ads might be bought and displayed based on region, and the whole thing funded by ads provided by large corporations in exchange for a stiff fee.

And without an attempt to integrate the ads into the feed, to look like any other posts.  I’d actually want to create corporate pages like FB has fan pages.  Corporations can have a page, but they are only allowed to post as individual officers of the company, not as the company itself except through the paid ad process.

All of these are just basic notions, nothing more.  I’m wondering what might be possible, and desirable.  I do know this.  I’d want to eliminate the things most people dislike about facebook while improving the things people do like.

In a discussion on FB itself I got the idea of a social media company as a non-profit, its state purpose being to provide a place for like people to meet and discuss mutual concerns and interests.  As a public SERVICE.

Facebook itself is many things to many people.  Some people use it to keep in touch with family and school friends.  Others use it professionally.  Others use it to promote a personal product or service.  Others use it to keep up with their favorite bands, or celebrities.  Each of those uses brings people to the platform.  How would one go about making it BETTER?

Maybe it’s time we talked about it.  As more and more people grow frustrated with FB, maybe we should be asking them, en masse.  What would YOU Like to see in a social media platform?  And what would you most like to avoid?


Dear Bill (Maher)

Why aren’t liberals freaking out about violent islam?

Will it do any good?  Should we join in chorus with the conservatives, who can’t tell the difference between a radical muslim and a moderate one?  The issue is already confused enough, what with us being allied with Saudi Arabia, which is as bad as any of the regimes you’d have us decry.  Should we be cursing at ISIS/ISIL?  I’m tired of the name games there anyway.  I’d just like to call them those “militant dirtbags,” or, maybe, “those jackasses in Iraq.”  (Though that could also refer to what Iraqis laughable refer to as a “government,” come to think of it).

Those dirtbags in question want us riled and not thinking straight.  That’s the best explanation for the brutal things they’ve done, killing innocent people just because they had the power to do so.  Plenty of Imams have declared that to be profane under Islam, but the dirtbags don’t care what they think.  They definitely don’t care what we think, unless that includes pissing us off so we don’t bother think at all.

I’ve been surprised that letter writing campaigns seem to have helped people held by these Islamic regimes, since I would have said that was impossible.  The dirtbags have already proven they won’t negotiate in good faith.

See, one of the problems with Islam is that there’s no centralized authority.  In fact, Islam began to fracture and shard the moment their “prophet” died, with different relatives and what not taking the religion in different directions from each other.  But there’s no pope, no council of Imams that speaks for all of Islam.

So who do we get mad at?  Who do we rail impotently against to earn your favor?

You know what?  Never mind.

Done Brawling

I’m sick of the online brawls.  Tired of spending my time trying to reason with people who won’t reason, then getting angry about their willful ignorance or obvious deceptions.  I hear and read people saying “You need to listen to opposing viewpoints.”  What if those “viewpoints” are ones I’ve heard over and over and over again?  What if I’ve refuted them time and time again and yet still end up fielding them years down the road?  It’s like battling an army of robots programmed with one set of responses.

Sure, every once in a while you run into someone who says something unexpected.  Those people you can often talk to.  But it’s the ones who aren’t thinking about what they’re saying, they’re just repeating what they heard and thinking it speaks on their behalf.  These are the people who try to argue using links.  “See what this person has to say about it.”

Fact is, I don’t CARE what that person has to say about it.  I’m not in a dialogue with him or her.

This isn’t something only encountered on the ideological right, either.  There are those who swallow anything certain “authorities” say on the subject.  Any subject.  Without ever once asking themselves the question–could this person be wrong?

The phone hacking scandal brought a lot of judgement out of the woodwork.  Oh, I know it’s easy to justify.  “If you don’t want naked pictures getting out, don’t take them.”

We’ve decided that people who are maliciously hacked, their privacy invaded, are somehow deserving of less respect than people who go out and get such pictures taken by magazines.  Hell, even look at some of the fashion shoots many of the models and actresses participate in.  I’ll bet they’re sexier in many respects than these personal photos taken in the privacy of their own space.

But we’re condemning them not for taking titillating photos… we’re condemning them for taking them and not sharing.  If they released them to the public there’d be a short-lived scandal, but it would probably not terribly affect many careers.  No more than if they showed their breasts or ass in a movie.

This is one of the recent things that just disgusted me.  There are others.  Ferguson.  That we still have to explain to white people that people of color have a different experience with the police utterly baffles me.

I’m tired of fighting with people who won’t bother to look at anything except from one direction, who will defend that myopic view until the end of time.  Whether it be that they can lay all their troubles on women, or people of color, or liberals, or whatever… or those who believe anarchy and revolution are the only way forward…. or those who don’t understand that our whole electoral system was designed to be a continuing revolution.  The turning of a wheel, not a violent uprising.

But it takes participation.  And I am SICK of people deigning to participate and degrading those who recognize this.  Sick of listening to their lazy arguments about why there’s no difference between the parties.  No, I don’t think the democrats are perfect.  There are things I wished they were better at.  Using our language, for example.  I write better responses to ninety percent of the bullshit that comes out of the right than they do.  And they’re LAWYERS for the most part.

Doing Damage

Western arrogance has been the cause of untold suffering through the last few hundred years.  Longer than that, if you go all the way back to Rome.  But let’s just concentrate on the modern “west.”  Let’s start with colonization.  Traveling around and checking other places out is a pretty good deal.  It’s what we’re programmed to do as humans.  But dragging our civilization’s baggage around with us and inflicting it on peoples who have their own ways?  Reprehensible.  At least the Romans didn’t give a rat’s ass who you worshipped.  They just wanted levies for Rome and whatever they could squeeze out in taxes.  In exchange they got roads and a rule of law.

What the west did was declare its version of Christianity (whichever sect was ascendant at the time) the one and true path to enlightenment, and that the culture of its bearers–be they British or Spanish or French or what have you–was superior to all others it encountered.

We weren’t alone in such assumptions, but we sure seemed to be the ones who took most to heart the notion that everyone else needed our protection and guidance to become our version of civilized.  Other cultures might have looked down on “savage” cultures, but they didn’t feel obliged to turn them into little clones of themselves.  There is no non-European version of the “White Man’s Burden,” for example.

It is my contention that many of the cultures we encountered and tried to eradicate, pushing our version of the “Truth,” were quite possibly MORE advanced socially and politically than we were.  Technologically, perhaps not.  Maybe they remained in the stone age with regards to tool creation and use.  So what?  Many of the Native American tribes understood democracy better than the white man did.  They understood that life was about more than the acquisition of goods, and those who acquired wealth were made more wealthy in the sharing of it.  There were tribes that women ran, while the men performed most of the more physical tasks.

This is also true of African tribes as well.  Those who understood that they were in it together and that cooperation worked better than competition.

I think we missed out on many chances to learn some very important things from the “less advanced” cultures we conquered and subsumed.  And make no mistake… that’s what cultural appropriation is.  The assumption of rights to cultures we absorbed for our own purposes.

It isn’t “honoring” a people we did our best to destroy, culturally if not physically.  The Bureau of Indian Affairs was initially created with the express purpose of integrating the tribes into the whole and getting rid of the tribes altogether.  And while some accounts of the indian schools are exaggerated, some might say, there’s enough evidence of deliberate attempts to Christianize and otherwise erase the culture of the natives.

I can understand the anger some Native Americans feel when parts of their culture are mimicked by whites… be it a caricature or some new age misinterpretation of their beliefs.  I do understand it.  Particularly the former.  The latter I tend to see another way.  Some of us recognize some of the inherent truths in some of the belief systems we did everything we could to wipe out.  None of us were served by not recognizing the value of a connection to the land and waters.  If we fail to recognize that connection, we risk every living thing on Earth.

Common Ground

Lately I’ve caught some shit for not “compromising” my beliefs enough to have a “dialogue” with “conservatives.”  First of all, I’ve met so few actual conservatives it’s not funny.  People who want to tear down what exists to replace it with a theoretical “better” America aren’t conservative.  Let’s just establish that right away.

Dialogue doesn’t involve them saying utterly stupid shit and me pretending like it’s an argument.  If they say “Christians aren’t being allowed to practice their religion in this country,” I am not going to nod my head and act as though they’re not out of their fucking minds.  Christians?  In America?

I try to think back to the last time I heard of someone protesting the building of a Christian church.  Or even a Mormon church.  (My own aggravation notwithstanding when they ripped apart an old orchard to build their stupid temple thing in Auburn when I was a teen).  To me and the kids who played in that field and orchard, they stole something ACTUALLY sacred and replaced it with another stupid church building.  But kids don’t pay taxes, now do they?

Well… actually they do.  Sales tax.  Wait.  Kids pay sales tax.  So kids pay taxes.  They get no representation.  Does that mean that sales taxes imposed on children are taxation without representation?  Man, there I go again.  Complicating matters. Can’t I just take things as they are without having to bend around and look at them from other angles?

Actually… no.  Seriously… isn’t that obvious?

I got to say.  When some of these people yell “Why can’t you see it from my perspective, the problem is that I have seen it from their perspective, more or less.  Do gun fetishists actually think that me, a man who spent most of his life practicing the martial arts until his body betrayed him, doesn’t understand what it means to feel vulnerable?  But vulnerable enough to think I need a rifle to go to the grocery store?  Hell, no.  Besides, my cane is enough of a pain in the ass in the car.

Is anyone else sick of being misinterpreted,or actually told what our own motivations are?  “You just want to…”  Uh… fuck you. Don’t put thoughts in my head.  Don’t put words in my mouth.  Sorry, but you can’t accuse me of misconstruing your own behavior or statements.  I’m not “projecting” my motivations on you.  I’m not interested in control.  I’m not trying to divest you of your ability or right to carry deadly weapons.  I just want a few small modifications to this so-called “right.”  Some basic options to prevent as much additional damage as possible.  You know, like universal background checks and waiting periods.  Oh, and, yeah… holding people responsible when their failure to secure their weapon results in injury and/or death.

And there is no way in hell I’m going to stand by and listen to someone try to say that their ability to practice Christianity in this country is under assault.  It’s absurd.  Their ability to drag other people into their mental bullshit might be, but that’s not the same thing at all.

Enough is enough

A friend posted that Josh Whedon quote the other day with a tag for me, saying that it sounded like me. “Why do you keep writing strong female characters?” “Because you keep asking me that question.”
Reasonable answer. Mine is more like this. I’m tired of watching women as the victim. Weary beyond belief. I hit that saturation point watching Criminal Minds. I REALLY like the cast and characters, but I felt the show really went around the bend trying to come up with MORE reasons some deranged individual might want to kill women. It was starting to SERIOUSLY creep me out. I got to the point that the opening scenes were almost impossible to watch. Some woman coming home, putting her keys down, and watching it KNOWING she was about to die.

I couldn’t take it. Not another one. I will probably never watch Silence of the Lambs or Se7en again. And I won’t miss them.

It’s not the violence so much. Violence is a part of our evolutionary makeup. Everything on this planet is familiar with violence in one respect or another, between the Mantis Shrimp with a .22 caliber forearm to the rogue elephant bound and determined to pay those stupid humans back for being such colossal dicks.
It’s the victimization. I would watch those scenes hoping for something I KNEW wasn’t forthcoming. The woman turning around and beating the living SHIT out of her attacker.
I write tough women because we NEED them. We need fewer victims. We need tough women. Not only tough physically, but tough minded. Ones who can take on the patriarchy head on. Women like my wife, who doesn’t flinch from anything.

I want to see more stories in which the take-charge person isn’t the guy with the broad cheekbones, wide shoulders, and cleft chin. I want to see some where the take charge person is the WOMAN with broad cheekbones, wide shoulders, and a cleft chin. Maybe even flat-chested. Or a bit chubby.
Someone OTHER than the STRAIGHT MALE.
So that’s why I write the stories I write. Where the women aren’t victims, but heroes.

Two more wars? I think not.

So… we’re faced with both a disturbingly organized group of thugs in the Muddle East, not to mention a conflict in which both parties seem to have no problem doing fucked up things to each other and everyone in the neighborhood, and Russia now thinks it’s Germany in the late 1930s.

Hitler could play games of denial because we couldn’t just look over his shoulder and say “Dude… fuck you. We can see what you’re doing on this little map. And, no, it’s not a computer game. Unless you think it’s a computer game from 1985. Then you might be on to something.”

I gotta admit it. Bullshit pisses me off. I’m surrounded by it. Think, motherfuckers, think. Throwing obvious bullshit is downright offensive. You throw bullshit into an argument I tend to get hostile.

Want an example of such bullshit? “Why isn’t Obama doing more about ISIS and Russia?” (We’re ignore, for now, the oddly treacherous notion of admiring Putin’s “leadership” at the same time. You know who else showed that kind of leadership? Pol Pot. Stalin. Saddam Fucking Hussein. They showed THAT kind of leadership).

When our President says we don’t yet have a strategy, they jump on him for not having a strategy. It’s not the President’s job to develop a military strategy. We have any number of people whose job it is, from the National Security Advisor to the Big Brass at the Pentagon. The President’s job is to listen to all the potential strategies and decide which one is the best, considering the advice of all the people whose job it is to advise him on such matters.

So, yeah, the bitching and moaning at Obama is BULLSHIT.

He’s supposed to leap into the fray against both ISIS and Russia without considering both the short and long term consequences of such an action, apparently by pulling a full-blown military strategy out of his ass, as well as trying to come up with a reasonable way to deal with a fascist dictator with dreams of conquest.

OF COURSE the right-wingers like Putin. He’s a fucking facist. Like all such beasts, he’s little more than a jumped-up mobster. He uses law not for justice, but as a weapon. Sound familiar? Unfortunately, yes. A little ray of illumination in the dark. This is one sure sign you’re dealing with a fascist. Something to keep in mind.

I think there’s good reason to tread lightly. I’m not sure we should be taking advice from the people who led us into the last two wars. And, honestly, if we’d wanted someone who’d get us involved in every possible war he could, we would have elected John McCain and Sarah Fucking Palin.

No bullshit.