Internet Seasons

I Saw the Spirit of Spring

Another Monday, Another Naive Weekly - Curated stories on Technology and Internet Culture.

This week I finished The Moth Snowstorm by Michael McCarthy. I think it is the 12th book or so I finish this year, so I’m quite behind on my New Year’s Resolution. However, the year is not over yet and I already surpassed the amount of books I read last year, so the goal partially seems to have worked.

The chapter that touched me the most was titled Joy in the Calendar. Generally speaking I’m not a big fan of calendars. I easily get a feeling of rushing from appointment to appointment, from commitment to commitment when my calendar gets too packed.

Therefore I started the chapter with a decent dose of scepticism. Fortunately the chapter was not about making time, productivity hacks or meeting practices, instead it was about our relationship with seasons.

Humans used to rely heavily on the weather and the seasons. The natural calendar dictated what we ate, when we woke up and when we went to sleep. We were very attuned to the indicators of changing seasons, from the early signs of spring to winter solstice.

Today most of us live in cities. One of the effects of our urban life is that we no longer have direct access to nature, nor are influenced by the rhythms of the natural growth-cycle. Our super markets offer more or less the same choices throughout the year, and the star signs are blinded by the street lights.

Michael McCarthy argues that we with the disconnection to the natural calendar we lose out on an important lesson taught by spring and the solstice: rebirth. New life should arrive just as old life should die.

When I read Michael write about the seasons I got to think back to the first time I fell in love with autumn. Usually I’d always hate on the gray, windy and wet season that wasn’t really good for anything. But in 2009 I had skipped autumn while traveling in South East Asia, so when the leaves turned yellow, red and brown in the fall of 2010 I was mind blown. It was the most beautiful sight I’d never appreciated.

Since you read this newsletter about technology and Internet culture, there is a good chance that you too live in a city. There is also a really good chance that the Internet is an essential part of your work and personal life.

More than thinking about the beauty of the autumn, I started to think about the absolute lack of Internet seasons. Granted the Internet is slower on public holidays. Granted people share different gifs in July than in December, but really how much does the internet actually change during a year? Can you tell me what is the cadence and pulse of the Internet?

If I’d describe the Internet, I’d not use seasons. Instead I’d describe it as one long, uninterrupted cadence of push, push, push.

Five Stories on Technology and Internet Culture

1. Behind Twitter’s Plan To Get People To Stop Yelling At One Another

Buzzfeed spent a few days together with the team at Twitter who are working on the future of the platform. For me it is interesting to read about how Twitter is moving towards thinking of everything as conversations instead of single tweets. A move that also implies moving away from engagement, towards what engagement does.

2. Part Of The Conversation

Bob Lefsetz shares the story of a friend who spent weeks binge-watching every episode of Game of Thrones just to feel part of the public conversation around the TV show. I think it is a good observation that we crave conversations for everyone to be part of in today’s hyper individualized and perzonalized online world.

3. The Groups Bringing Forum Culture to Facebook

I’m not a heavy Facebook user, so this trend of “tag groups” have completely slipped under my radar. These are groups people join with the purpose of tagging the group in the comment section to other posts. For example, the group “The bar was already so low, but this man had a shovel” is used to tag homophobic posts. Kinda already love it.

4. Can “Indie” Social Media Save Us?

Annoying title to an otherwise good post from Cal Newport about IndieWeb. Cal Newport argues that the key for a healthier social media is ownership of the servers, because if we don’t own the servers, we are ultimately (free) data workers for other companies.

5. [Nothing]

I didn’t read enough articles this week to find five stories I felt worth sharing in this newsletter. So instead I’ll let you breathe and hug a friend.

Naive Weekly

Hi, I’m Kristoffer and I’m one of the founders of co-matter. You just read Naive Weekly - Curated stories on Technology and Internet Culture.

As always a big thanks to the six Naive Friends who chip in every month or year to support me making time to write this newsletter: Nikolaj, Søren, Dries, Mikkel, Tina & Angela!

And thanks to Ana for the photo.

<3

K

Extracting Value

Try to Bring the Fertilizer Whenever You Gather People

Another Monday (Tuesday!), Another Naive Weekly - Curated stories on Technology and Internet Culture.

I’m back from Tel Aviv. It was really a positive experience walking around the city. Today’s post was written last Thursday on the beach after I had spent the day at the rehearsals of the Eurovision. Ps. Hope to be back at normal Monday publishing schedule next week.

When you gather people they need a place to meet. Entering the room you’ll quickly feel who is present and why they are sharing space and time with each other.

Today I went to the Eurovision rehearsals. In many ways an experience I probably won’t understand until later in life, yet an experience that left a clear impression of who was in the room and why they were there.

Honestly you probably already know the answer of why people were at the Eurovision rehearsals. Because the way most of us interact with the Eurovision is very telling from how it felt going to the rehearsals. It was a TV show. Period.

Zala and Gasper had three takes at this rehearsals. The goal was of course to make them accustomed to the production plan, but more than anything, it was about the look and feel of their performance on TV. Not between the two of them. Not between them and the audience. But between them and the TV viewers.

During each take, a group of ten people would sit in front of a TV screen in front of the stage. The group was discussing cuts, framing, light, angles - literally anything expect the goosebumps I felt on my skin. The same goosebumps their Israeli volunteer Abi proudly showed her friend.

As we exited the concert hall, we went back to the artist area where the TV screens were running and people from around the world were recording interviews in colourful dresses. Gasper, Zala, Ana and the rest of the delegation went to the viewing room to continue discussing the TV experience for another thirty minutes. Meanwhile Ziga and I stayed in the non-place observing people broadcasting back home.

For me the most telling experience was the second to last interview with Zala and Gasper. After three rehearsals, thirty minutes of TV planning and roughly two hours of press conference and one-on-one interviews, one of the reports ended by promising Zala and Gasper that he’d be better at Slovenian by next year’s Eurovision - clearly forgetting that they are only participants this year.

The performers singing tonight in the first semifinale at the Eurovision are all forced to be actors, representing their countries, directed by their delegations and consumed by the TV viewers. It is a show, but not for those in the room.

For me it was a reminder of not being too focused on the output of gathering people. Designing from the output can quickly end with the purest form of extraction. Instead ask what people want to contribute and trust that collecting the right people, at the right time, in the right place, with the right purpose will generate moments of goosebumps and deep connections.

Five Stories on Technology and Internet Culture

1. Most Americans Have Never Spoken With a Local Journalist

Only roughly one in five have spoken with a local journalist. And the numbers are worse when you look at gender, race and income, meaning that any deviate from the white male type decreases your chance of speaking with journalists. This study is a good reminder of the lack of diversity in the opinions we are exposed to.

When this year is over, I plan to look through all the stories I’ve shared in this newsletter and look for gender bias in writers and subjects. While I every week think about this, I’m sure I’ve a lot to improve in the diversity of the voices I feature. If you are impatient, check out some of the female powered newsletters in this Twitter thread.

2. The World Just Witnessed the First Entirely Virtual Presidential Campaign

Probably the biggest bias I still have to solve is the heavy US tendency in the stories I share. Of course the US is ahead of the curve in many matters, but it is not like the rest of the world is at sleep. This story about Ukraine’s new president elect is very much a proof of that.

While we often hear how extremists are using social media to amplify their views and opinions, it is new to me to hear of a president being elected despite (almost) completely neglecting the traditional political campaign. It is now eight years ago the last major social media platform was founded, but it is only now that we seem to be ready for a complete change in the distribution systems used to create power - for better and worse.

3. Twitter Is Not America

Continuing the bias topic, Pew Research Center recently published a study showing the bias of Twitter users. Twitter users are younger, more likely to identify as Democrats, more highly educated and have higher incomes than U.S. adults overall. I enjoyed Alexis Madrigal reflection on the study:

Twitter is not America. And few people who work outside the information industries choose to spend their lives reading tweets, let alone writing them. Twitter is a highly individual experience that works like a collective hallucination, not a community.

4. How Fortnite’s Success Led to Months of Intense Crunch at Epic Games

My dad usually say that your job won’t thank you. It is a rather cynic point he uses to remind me that we are all cogs in the wheel - more replaceable than we often would prefer to think.

Despite the advise of my dad, I’ve often went deep while working on projects, therefore I could relate to this behind the scene story of the toll Fortnite’s success. The story is similar to those of Facebook content moderators, Ice cream museum’s workers, Amazon employees, Tesla engineers and so forward.

I’m not sure what to advise on this, except I think we should always remind ourselves to thank the person behind the desk or behind the scenes. Success has many fathers, but we rarely get to know the majority of them.

5. Hot Take on the Future of Facebook Groups

In this Twitter thread Gina Bianchini predicts that Facebook in the future will start to monetize group admins for their work. The thread follows Facebook’s announced strategy of putting groups at the heart of the platform. I’m uncertain about Gina’s prediction, which I think is unsurprisingly fitting with her personal interest as the CEO and founder of Mighty Networks.

Yet I do think Gina raises some good points in the Twitter thread, primarily that the goals for (online) communities, movements, groups, tribes, circles, networks, etc should not be monoculture, but a plurality.

Naive Weekly

Hi, I’m Kristoffer and I’m one of the founders of co-matter. You just read Naive Weekly - Curated stories on Technology and Internet Culture.

As always a big thanks to the five Naive Friends who chip in every month or year to support me making time to write this newsletter: Søren, Nikolaj, Dries, Mikkel, Tina & Angela!

<3

K

Withhold Opening

Walking Around Bauhaus Buildings Made Me Dream of More Empathy

Another Monday, Another Naive Weekly - Curated stories on Technology and Internet Culture.

This week’s newsletter is written from my holiday in Tel Aviv. Yesterday I had planned to write and send the newsletter, but instead I ended up walking around the many bauhaus buildings. I always admired bauhaus, but was still stunned by experiencing whole neighbourhoods following the bauhaus school of thought. So sorry for the delay, but then again not really :)

It's not really my problem if others are in trouble and need help.

I strongly disagree with the sentence above. However, if we are to take society at large I might represent the minority - at least if we look at Sara Konrath’s research on empathy, asking questions like the one above and whether people try to imagine how it is to be in somebody’s place before critizing them.

Since the 70s the percentage of young people in America who feel responsible for helping other people and withhold judgement has dropped 40%. Forty percent less empathic! I find number mind-blowing.

Last week Facebook hosted their annual developer conference outlining the development for the next years. Expectedly Facebook seems to continue their push towards groups and communities, something I wrote a draft post about last year after I was invited to their community leadership summit in London. I still have mixed feelings about it, but might try to take another look at the post one of the next week’s and see if I can wrap my head around it (please let me know if you want to give feedback!).

As predictably as Facebook’s focus on community and groups was the critique of everything Mark Zuckerberg on Twitter and the media-landscape at large. The main joke was Mark’s statement that the ‘future is private’. I understand that this is funny given that he claimed privacy dead ten years ago, but then again, he was not the only one claiming privacy dead back then.

More importantly, I’d actually love for people to be able to change their minds. Society and the Internet is a different place than it was ten years ago. Back in 2009 there was around 1.6-1.9 billion Internet users. Today Facebook alone has 2.7 billion users. Back in 2009 Mark Zuckerberg was in his mid-twenties, today he is mid-thirties. Time is changing and let’s allow for it.

I understand that it is easy to pick on Mark Zuckerberg. Not only does he seem social awkward on camera, he also has made plenty of decisions that are not very ethical to say it the least. However, I really wonder if I’d be much different I was being put into his place: a college boy who experienced his creation outgrowing his imagination and age.

Five Stories on Technology and Internet Culture

1. Geocities Homestead Neighborhoods and Suburbs

I never had a Geocities website, but reading this article made me want one. I think the hyper-individualization of vanity urls and handles comes with a price: it forces us to think about ourselves and less about ourselves in relation to other people. Imagine if Facebook had copied the neighborhood idea of Geocities? I’m sure our behaviour would be different.

2. The Information Diet

FutureCrunch is a newsletter I love to receive. In this article one of the writers tells about how he curates his information sources. The list of sources is super relevant, but what makes me share the article here are all the small tidbits about our super-speedy information highway and how it affects how we think about thinking. And I love the advise of always looking for the helpers in disaster stories.

3. The Existential Crisis Plaguing Online Extremism Researchers

How does it feel to give oxygen to misinformation? I really enjoyed reading Rebecca Lewis’ thoughts in this Wired article, especially I find it worth remembering, that it is too easy to focus on technical aspects of online extremists. In reality, online extremism is a complex social issue mirroring the problems we have with extremism in general (not just online). We should not fool ourselves to think that there are simple fixes.

4. Instagram and Facebook Ban Far-Right Extremists

One of the fixes that seem to rise in popularity is to actually ban extremist sharing misinformation. This is quite the change from a few years ago where any platform did everything it could to claim neutrality in defence of freedom of speech - or to avoid being legally responsible for what was posted on their platforms.

5. Think You’re Discreet Online? Think Again

It’s been a while since I last time read anything by Zeynep Tufekci, so I was happy to see her back in my reading list again with this public announcement hidden as an opinion piece. It stresses a fact that I believe many people forget - or digital footprint doesn’t only rely on our own actions, it relies on those we surround ourselves with.

Naive Weekly

Hi, I’m Kristoffer and I’m one of the founders of co-matter. You just read Naive Weekly - Curated stories on Technology and Internet Culture.

As always a big thanks to the five Naive Friends who chip in every month or year to support me making time to write this newsletter: Nikolaj, Dries, Mikkel, Tina & Angela!

One very very big thank you to my friend Søren who became a paid subscriber this week. Søren is one of the people I know who knows the most about newsletters, having him subscribed feels overwhelming.

I think everyone on this list can thank Søren, Nikolaj, Dries, Mikkel, Tina and Angela for receiving this newsletter today. I really wouldn’t have taken time out of my holiday had it not been for their support. It is weird, but true.

<3

k

Universal Pet Peeves

Maybe We Should Not Try To Solve All Problems With Just One Solution

Another Monday, Another Naive Weekly - Curated stories on Technology and Internet Culture.

What are your digital pet peeves? What is the one thing you can’t stop complaining about online? Last week a few of the newsletters I’m subscribed to each touched on some of my favourite digital pet peeves.

First Jake Knapp dedicated an entire newsletter to talking about email, more specifically gmail. I never understood why Google has neglected that product so much. I bet for many people, their inbox is the one place they spend the most time on their laptop while at work, yet it is so under-developed.

While Google has been sitting on their hands, people are requesting to pay 30USD per month for Superhuman, an email app made for 2019. And now the previous lead designer of Gmail released a free Chrome extension to reduce the clutter in Gmail, an extension that quickly made waves on the Internet.

Then Peter Bihr wrote about people sending calendar invites without asking first. Can we all agree that it is super frustrating when you suddenly see an unexpected, unwanted claim of your time ticking in? It is almost as annoying as people who use 60 minutes as the default calendar setting.

Finally Kai Brach wrote about digital distractions in his (excellent) Dense Discovery. I can talk at great length about the annoyance of notifications and how it destroys my ability for deep thinking. Kai writes, “instead of scuba diving, my mind is now riding a jet-ski.” Amen to that. The only peace I can find in digital distractions is reading about how medieval monks also struggled with keeping their attention on deep-thinking.

Five Stories on Technology and Internet Culture

1. The Rise and Fall of Internet Art Communities

Really impressive tale of the evolution of art communities on the Internet. The story is relevant to read even if you are not particularly interested in art. The evolution from bulletin boards to dedicated community spaces reflects how the online world evolved in nearly any vertical. According to the article, the art communities are nearly dead today, as Instagram and other homogene platforms have taken over. These platforms are streamlined and easy to use, but also nudges a more passive and less creative use.

2. Instagram Hides Like Counts In Leaked Design Prototype

I’m increasingly thinking that the like button will be remembered as a parenthesis in web history. Following discussions by Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey about hiding the amount of likes on Twitter, a recent discovery shows that Instagram is considering hiding the button too. And while it is yet to be decided for Twitter and Instagram, the new version of Vine has already decided to hide likes. (Before you get too excited about the death of the like button, I think it won’t mean the death of algorithmic curation)

3. The Instagram Aesthetic Is Over

Apparently the largest accounts on Instagram are struggling with keeping their following numbers as the platform experiences a shift in aesthetics. The new look is more authentic, less filtered.

4. The Gentle Side of Twitch

I enjoyed reading about the less fast-paced side of the online streaming platform Twitch. Most of us know Twitch from gaming streams, but apparently there is a long tail of video-streamers who are reading books out loud, cooking, knitting, putting on make-up and even sleeping.

5. How To Make Yourself Invisible To AI

The thought of cameras recognizing everywhere you go is rather scary. I’d like to walk the streets without constantly being tracked. Therefore it is pretty interesting to read that researchers at KU Leuven has designed a simple print that is able to fool the algorithm so it doesn’t recognize us. Today the main wave of fashion seems to be producing more ethical and sustainable clothes, but as we see more and more surveillance cameras with the ability to identify humans, the next wave of clothing could very well be around designing for privacy.

Naive Weekly

Hi, I’m Kristoffer and I’m one of the founders of co-matter. You just read Naive Weekly - Curated stories on Technology and Internet Culture.

As always a big thanks to the five Naive Friends who chip in every month or year to support me making time to write this newsletter: Nikolaj, Dries, Mikkel, Tina & Angela!

This week I’d like to recommend listening to Solana talking with Severin about Mozilla’s Internet Health Report. The latest version of the Internet Health Report was released last week and is probably the single best reading on the state of the internet. I’m quite proud that two so smart people are reading this newsletter.

This week’s opening visual is by Wolfgang et al.

Extremely Biased

You Really Don't Care Much About Social Media When You Are Looking At Trees

Another Monday, Another Naive Weekly - Curated stories on Technology and Internet Culture.

Sorry for missing yesterday’s noon CET publishing schedule. Over the Easter weekend I went to the Swedish forest to disconnect from the Internet and look at trees. I hope you had time to connect with friends and families too.

Today’s introduction was written in my notebook while sipping an afternoon coffee in the sun. The setting was great, the coffee was average and the thoughts were messy.

— — —

Sweden, 2019

Today it is easy to find the best. Michelin guides us to the best restaurants. Instagram shows the perfect spot for our photo of the blossoming cherry trees. Udemy has an endless list of top-rated courses for us to learn almost anything.

Together with my friend Antal we are working on indexing the best coffee places (WIP) in the world. We both care about coffee, so when we are in a new town, of course we want to taste the best it has to offer, hence creating a directory.

I have friends who make fun of me for caring about coffee. They just want a regular black coffee. They find it silly to care about the details of coffee, not to mention paying the premium that a bag of really good beans costs. Nespresso, americano, whatever, it really doesn’t matter to them.

All of my friends who mock my coffee enthusiasm have other hobbies or causes they care deeply about. It might be Nordic black metal music, Warhammer figures, natural wines, vintage bikes, Lego, literally anything goes. And surely they’ll be able to tell me war-stories of how they came into possession of certain unique items. Stories that often include eye-opening amount of money.

With limited time and resources it makes sense to want the best. If I had to hire someone, I’d want to hire the best. If I had to decide where to work, I’d want to work at the best place (possible).

If the industrialization invented and celebrated the normal human and the middle class society, after years of celebrating kings, gods and the supernatural, I’d argue we are entering some sort of normalized extreme age. We are no longer satisfied with living yet another average suburban live, we want a unique and fulfilling life — so even when we go digital detoxing, we do it extremely.

Just like there were downsides to kings and gods and the industrialization, I’m sure someone in the future will be able to write meaningful words about the age where we all rushed to the extremes.

Remotely Related Readings

If I had more clarity, these stories would have been included in the opening.

  • How the Idea of a ‘Normal’ Person Got Invented
    This article is a few years old, but still worth reading. I find it fascinating that not long ago humans had no idea of ‘normal’.

  • Online Reviews Are Biased
    When did you last time leave a review online? What rating did you give? Chances are that it was either very good, or very bad.

  • Calling Yourself an Amateur
    Somehow the word ‘amateur’ has negative connotations. Which is weird considered that it means ‘one who loves’. When I listened to Karen Armstrong and Krista Tippett talk, I decided I wanted to be an amateur in more aspects of life (also if amateurs might not be the best).

  • The Deadly Truth About a World Built For Men
    Crash-test dummies based on the average male are just one example of design that forgets about women – and puts lives at risk

  • Human, All Too Human
    Le Corbusier pushed for the idea of the Modular Man, the human size on which his architecture and designs was based. 1.83M tall. This article is about the limits to this thinking. I included it because I’m fascinated about normal.

Five Stories on Technology and Internet Culture

1. Insurers Want to Know How Many Steps You Took Today

Last week I shared the story about how Uber drivers are being rated on their driving skills, based on sensors in their phones. This week I came across how insurance companies are incentivising customers to give them access to the data created by their phones.

2. Snapchat Is the Next Evolution in Photography

Owen Williams who recently writes words I respect, published a story about Snap’s latest product direction announcement. Owen argues that by leveraging community created filters for landmarks, Snapchat is creating a new language for photography. I find the argumentation interesting, but personally I’m less convinced at this point. Wdyt?

3. Instagram needs stars, and it’s built a team to find them

You’d think that Instagram was in a unique position to discover emerging talent on the platform, but after reading this profile of their talent studio, I started to think differently. To spot talents, Instagram hired Justin Antony who has more than 5 years of experience in spotting talents for legacy brands like Nickelodeon and VICE.

4. Social Media at TED2019

The annual TED conference just finished. This year Twitter’s CEO Jack Dorsey was invited on stage to talk about their work with creating healthier conversations. Chris Anderson has done an incredible job building TED to the cultural institution it is today, but judging on questions like “Is this how you want history to remember you? As the handmaidens to authoritarianism all across the world?” I’d say this interview won’t be known for his best contribution to the world. (TBC next week)

5. Why 536 Was The Worst Year To Be Alive

Take a moment and read about how bad life was for people who lived in 536. Then take a moment and appreciate 2019.

Naive Weekly

Hi, I’m Kristoffer and I’m one of the founders of co-matter. You just read Naive Weekly - Curated stories on Technology and Internet Culture.

As always a big thanks to the five Naive Friends who chip in every month or year to support me making time to write this newsletter: Nikolaj, Dries, Mikkel, Tina & Angela!

And thanks to Ana for letting me use the photo.

<3

k

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