Libraries and democracy. Both good ideas.

I call this enshittification, and it is a seemingly inevitable consequence arising from the combination of the ease of changing how a platform allocates value, combined with the nature of a “two-sided market,” where a platform sits between buyers and sellers, hold each hostage to the other, raking off an ever-larger share of the value that passes between them.

From The ‘Enshittification’ of TikTok | WIRED by Cory Doctrow (via)

#Area #Platforms


I had a little thought experiment on using mastodon to map the civil society network.

So, why does civil society need a robust and resilient network?

Because civil society organizations play critical role in protecting democracy, human rights, and social justice. Being part of a robust and resilient network allows these organizations to share resources, knowledge, and best practices,

In addition, a network can provide support and protection for individual organizations and their members, especially in challenging environments where freedom of expression and association may be restricted.

#civilsociety #network #hardproblems


On Mastodon, I shared the hard problems that I carry in my pocket:

Next on my list is to build out those problems with greater description.

And, then taking my riff on the Fenyman technique build on this based on the new things I've learned.

Here's a start.

Creating a resilient and accessible network of civil society groups and actors.

In order for civil society to be resilient it needs to be connected. Connected to each other. Connected to funders. Connected to community members with a variety of capital. Connected to the people they serve? How do we visualize the network and make sure it is well connected, diverse, and health?

That's a very basic — maybe too basic? — view of the hard problem. But that's okay. I'm willing to start there.

So, how might we visual that. Very much like a network graph. You've seen it. Bubbles and lines connecting in a mass. Like this or this or [this}(

So the first step is getting that network graph is getting the data. How do we get the data?

I've been noodling on this and noodling on it on Mastodon. So stay with me for a minute or two.

Let's say we set up a series of mastodon servers and we match them to the SDGs. We have a server called “” and “” and so on.

And further imagine that for a group to get an account one of those servers they need show that they do work in that area. We can give them a variety of ways to demonstrate it:

  • via a Candid or TechSoup log on
  • via a reference from an existing group on the server
  • via a reference from a group of funders or donors
  • via a reference from a group of their clients

There can be other ways for sure but the point is we want more than one way for them to be able to validate that they do work in a particular area.

So they get through this hurdle, and they have a mastodon account on the appropriate mastodon server. Now, we ask them to follow the other groups — no matter the server — with whom they have a relationship. It might be a funder. It might be group with whom they have partnered for grant projects. It might be a group to whom they refer their clients.

In this way, we can start to build a map.

  • It has 17 centers, the SDGs.
  • It shows how groups are linked to each other.
  • We can find groups who have very few links (and so might be less reslient).

Further, we can recent our network map around a group by clicking on it and put it at the center of our map.

There are a lot of problems with this approach but it does demonstrate how we could use federated technology and group governance to start to build a map of civil society and then build out from there.

#civilsociety #network #hardproblems


  1. It isn't search. Search should give you sources. The excellent is a great application of AI to search.

  2. That we are using it as search shows us how broken search is. At least the model that is monetized by ads. I use DEVONagent as an antidote to search in the way that presents on the world's most popular search engine.

  3. It has limitations. “ChatGPT sometimes writes plausible-sounding but incorrect or nonsensical answers. Fixing this issue is challenging, as: (1) during RL training, there’s currently no source of truth; (2) training the model to be more cautious causes it to decline questions that it can answer correctly; and (3) supervised training misleads the model because the ideal answer depends on what the model knows, rather than what the human demonstrator knows.” (source)

  4. It can be an equalizer. We can use ChatGPT and similar applications built on helping us write to get unstuck. I use tools like these to break away from a blank page.

  5. English teachers (my wife is one!) need to start teaching people a different kind of writing literacy based on prompts, editing, and bringing voice into our writing.

  6. There is a quote I remember being from the Eames documentary: You can't outsource curiosity. What is it we can't outsource to ChatGPT? Curiosity and its close cousin engagement. We have to interact in a way that demonstrates we, as humans, are delivering those two things.

#Areas #AI


Added a section on how to ask for help, starting with asking questions. Also added how to email a stranger to the how to email section.

The repo and website are linked on the projects page.

#TurningPro #projects


The Magic of Small Databases

We’ve built many tools for publishing to the web – but I want to make the claim that we have underdeveloped the tools and platforms for publishing collections, indexes and small databases. It’s too hard to build these kinds of experiences, too hard to maintain them and a lack of collaborative tools.

This is a very interesting problem. And relevant to civil society organizations as well as hobbyists and collectors. How does a local nonprofit keep up a list of resources relevant to their community? How do we know what services are available in our communities? How do we discover all the forms we have to fill out and keep up to date if we need assistance getting food. How do humans find and reuse this data.

At the database of resources level, this is a problem 211 tries to solve. Open referral takes it a step further and provides an indie web like structure for marking up the resources, making it easier to remix and use them. Libraries bring it to their communities.

The now-defunct H2O from Harvard is a good starting place for thinking about this. It was made for collaboratively managing course syllabi. You could make a syllabus, clone a syllabus, fork a syllabus and rework it. It carried attribution with it. It preserved the contributors to the syllabus. I used to organize post-talk or workshop handouts.

It feels like their is a community project here to define a standards based approach that allows people to contribute resources, create lists with ability to create sections, order items, and annotate at the list, section, and item level, and publish to the web. It can borrow from the collaborative aspect of H2O so that you can remix other lists, preserving attribution.



CS182: Ethics, Public Policy, and Technological Change

Our goal is to explore the ethical and social dimensions of technological innovation. Stanford has a special responsibility to address these topics in light of its role as a seedbed of Silicon Valley. By integrating perspectives from computer science, philosophy, and social science, the course will provide learning experiences that robustly and holistically examine the impact of technology on humans and societies.

What Is Pleroma? | Lainblog

Pleroma is a microblogging server software that can federate (= exchange messages with) other servers that support the same federation standards (OStatus and ActivityPub). What that means is that you can host a server for yourself or your friends and stay in control of your online identity, but still exchange messages with people on larger servers. Pleroma will federate with all servers that implement either OStatus or ActivityPub, like GNU Social, Friendica, Hubzilla and Mastodon.

Comment by nicbou on I prefer semi-automation | Hacker News

Automation is not just about saving time. It’s also about saving a “recipe” for a task, about avoiding human error, and about staying in the flow.

It’s our industry’s equivalent to mise en place. Deal with the drudgery in advance to focus on your work when it matters.

Things they didn’t teach you about Software Engineering by Vadim Kravcenko via Hacker News

Although it may sound surprising, the primary focus of a software engineer’s job is not writing code but rather creating value through the use of software that was written. Code is simply a tool to achieve this end goal. Code -> Software -> Value.

How They Must Write: Saving the Five-Paragraph Essay and Other Contingencies by Thomas Basbøll

The five-paragraph essay forces students to be both knowledgeable and articulate about an assigned topic “on the spot” and therefore gives them a straighforward opportunity demonstrate to us whether they have learned what we have tried to teach them. If they know they actually have to a write a good one to a prompt they don’t know in advance ((but of course on a topic that is relevant to the class they are taking) they have a reason, not just to learn the material, but to keep their thinking and prose in good shape.

Why cassettes? by Dominique Cyprès via Hacker News

The way I relate to a recording when I carry it around physically in my pocket—not just my phone, which can provide access to that recording and many others, but a tape dedicated to containing just that recording and no other—just feels different. The tape becomes a little talisman that turns an intangible recording into a very tangible object, something I can see and turn over in my hands and physically give to another person.

GitHub is Sued, and We May Learn Something About Creative Commons Licensing by Roy Kaufman

Plaintiffs allege that OpenAI and GitHub assembled and distributed a commercial product called Copilot to create generative code using publicly accessible code originally made available under various “open source”-style licenses, many of which include an attribution requirement. As GitHub states, “…[t]rained on billions of lines of code, GitHub Copilot turns natural language prompts into coding suggestions across dozens of languages.” The resulting product allegedly omitted any credit to the original creators.

#AI #copyright #ethics #automation #writing #links


Sections of book covers representing books read in 2022

In 2022, I read about about 54 books. I started the year wanted to write a post about each book.

I only made it through the first 12. Here's to getting more of them up as posts in 2023.

Here are the six books that have really stuck with me:

  1. Purple Hibiscus – Fiction.
  2. Lost Children Archive – Fiction.
  3. The Pragmatic Programmer – Nonfiction.
  4. Bloodlands – Nonfiction.
  5. Lost Radio City – Fiction.
  6. The Kite Runner – Fiction.

This post contains affiliate links.



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