You better think (think)
Think about what you’re trying to do to me
Think (think, think)
Let your mind go, let yourself be free

“Think” by and co-written by Aretha Frankin

So I was thinking about a bunch of stuff this weekend. I spent a lot of time thinking about Aretha. I even made my kids watch The Blues Brothers so they could see that she was more than an amazing singer, songwriter and activist. She was funny. For me, she stole the movie with this scene and I’ve thought that since I first saw it as a kid…about my kids age.

Let’s go back, let’s go back
Let’s go way on way back when
I didn’t even know you
You couldn’t have been too much more than ten (just a child)
I ain’t no psychiatrist, I ain’t no doctor with degrees
But it don’t take too much high IQ to see what you’re doing to me

I’ve also been thinking about social networks (along with a lot of other people) and how they are having a negative affect on me and those around me. The negativity is mostly coming from a small group of people and millions of bots who are spewing a bunch of vitrol in their posts and videos and it’s hard to figure out what to do about these bad actors on these platforms.

The debate concerns who and who shouldn’t get banned for saying hateful things or what  should be considered offensive. I worry about asking the folks who run these networks to make decisions on these issues that impact our society and culture is a bad idea. Don’t get me wrong, these are really smart people. I’m just a bit weary of business people setting cultural and societal contracts instead of folks who dedicate their lives to public policy and service. I’m sure people are on the payroll at these companies that have dedicated their lives to such issues, but I’ve rarely seen internal policing go well. Maybe it will.

Ten or so years ago when I started on Facebook and Twitter the services were shortcuts to get information on my friends (on FB) and on tech, music and sometimes sports news from Twitter. It seemed like they were mostly link services that like my RSS reader, made it a bit easier to track a lot of things. Hyperlinks are powerful and I’d bounce around from source to source. The signal was distributed and un-algorithmed. Somewhere along the line that changed…at least for me. Pre-Twitter, I got my the majority of my information from visiting blogs and large media companies directly instead of quick-take tweets. Then I noticed I let the quick take replace reading the original piece altogether. I purposely had to make an effort to subscribe and visit a few publications and blogs every day after the election to change my news consumption habits. 

With a lot of people frustrated with Twitter’s take on censorship, some folks were floating quitting Twitter or trying other services like Mastodon as an alternative. I tried Mastodon a year or so ago, but it was a bit too much of a headache to use and it didn’t seem like that many people were using it. On Friday, I tried it again and found it much easier to use. And there were a lot of people using it, at least on the instance I joined. Does it feel like it could replace Twitter tomorrow? Nope. But Twitter didn’t seem like it would replace the news for me either when I first joined.

I’m not going to quit Twitter as there is still content value being created for me. I doubt that the network value of Twitter will go away for several years. But maybe Mastodon will pull out my “music Twitter” so there’s a place I can go that is higher signal on music and not crowded out by tech, politics or the people who conflate Twitter posts with Facebook posts of their personal lives non-stop. Twitter may not being growing significantly, but the noise has increased for sure.

I do think Mastodon or some distributed variant has a legitimate chance now to pull attention away from Twitter. Or at least some of the more interesting contributors, especially when I see two of the first people I followed on Twitter, Andy and Anil, are there and posting regularly. You can also kind of see the potential for some new community/publication thing forming when you see people like Will , Gary and Jeff playing around with Content.Town – their own Mastodon instance. Sure it’s a joke. Twitter seemed like one at first too.

So back to what Simon tweeted yesterday. Why don’t we just start blogging and rolling again? Why not go back to making content on my own, er leased, servers? It was never that hard to make a blog and it’s even easier now. Within a few minutes, good ‘ol Dreamhost (proud customer since 2001) and WordPress had me back up again. So I’m going to start cranking out blog posts again even if only two people read them. I’ll tell you, it’s much easier to write and read a blog post than a tweet storm

And to Simon’s point about subscribing to each other’s Atom/RSS feeds. We can still do that with services like Feedly, even if Google Reader is gone. Or maybe we should call Mark Fletcher to stand up my original fav Bloglines again. Or maybe there’s something new that sits on top of Twitter, Mastodons and blogs that is distributed and free of algorithmic feeds that more evenly distribute our attention and dollars to creators.  Anyway, you can find my RSS feed in the menu or I’ll keep plowing links on Twitter. 

Finally, thanks for reading my post. I so wanted to title it Back to the Future, but I had too much Aretha on my mind not to bring her into it. If you want to read a great piece on Aretha, my favorite is from Patterson Hood on The Bitter Southerner. Which is a great independent blog you should be reading.






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