A light list today reflecting some (light) travel this weekend to visit family.
How Signal is playing with fire: Hard to deny that cryptocurrency is popular for illegal activity. The whole ecosystem of ransomware is boosted by Bitcoin, for example. This piece explores what might happen when an end-to-end encrypted messaging service embraces anonymous or pseudonymous payments via crypto.
Lots of contrarian crypto posts coming out lately. Glad I’m not the only one skeptical/confused.
Crypto: the good, the bad, the ugly: A good rundown (that’s very accessible if you’re not a crypto nerd) of the state of crypto. Like the author, I feel there’s *something* there, but it’s not clear any of the current ideas are anything but excitement and froth.
Today on Sick Sad World: How The Cryptobros Have Fallen (warning: strong language): The other big disconnect for me has been the lofty language of crypto (“Freedom! Liberty!”) and the reality of what they’ve created so far. JWZ nails this in his typical, brutally cynical way.
Railway lines once connected the Middle East: Interesting bit of history that I didn’t know. Going from Istanbul to Jerusalem with stops in Aleppo or Homs, places now better known as war zones instead of thriving stops along a major trade route.
Tech I’m Watching in 2022: Thoughtful people-centric list from Anil Dash. (Crypto doesn’t make the list, if you were wondering).
(note: this is the first of a new weekly post where I’m going to aggregate interesting things that cross my feeds. Monday posts with links pulled together over the week prior.)
The Pareto Funtier: If you’re looking for an explanation of why NFTs/Bitcoin/Ethereum/etc have what seem like irrational value movement, this is article is the closest I’ve come to going, “Ok, I can kinda see that, and it’s actually an optimistic view on things I actually care about.”
Embrace the 10-foot space: An article from our Disney+ teams focused on the living room experience. A good rundown of the types of things that matter.
IMAX Enhanced: A Disney Streaming leader mentioned the 10-foot article in the context of sound design. Disney+ launched IMAX Enhanced versions of some Marvel and Star Wars titles, and I was curious what that branding/certification meant. Might be time to upgrade the sound at home…
Update: There aren’t APIs for most of the services that I’d want to use here, so I’m putting this project on pause for now. I’ll probably hack something together for my own use, but trying to turn this into a service doesn’t seem possible given API usage guidelines from these services.
I posted the following to Twitter the other day:
So, if all goes according to plan, all of my Twitter history up to yesterday-ish will be deleted, and I will have setup some code (that I control) that will delete everything older than 7 days on an ongoing basis.
I used to believe that everything posted on the Internet should stay, forever. I’m not so sure that is true. Published for public consumption, forever? Beginning to doubt that for most normal humans…
In the near future (weeks hopefully), I’m going to start automatically hiding old photos, blog posts, everything except those that seem really worthwhile to keep up indefinitely. I’m working on the rules still, curious what people think are good rules.
I’m almost certain that corporate social media policies, especially for public facing employees, should strongly recommend services that do the same – either delete or tighten up permissions after a window of time on public posts (And anything on FB)…
So, in short – you’re only going to see ~7 days of old tweets on my Twitter account. This post is about how I’m setting that up.
The short term hack
Twitter makes this hard (though I think this is unintentional). Specifically, they make it hard to access anything more than the last 3200 tweets in your account via the API. So, getting your account down to just the last 7 days ends up requiring two bits of software:
Find a way to delete tweets older than my most recent 3200.
Setup a process that watches my twitter feed regularly and deletes tweets older than 7 (or whatever) days.
Deleting all of my tweets
I decided I would delete all of my tweets to begin with. If twitter offered a native “archive” or unpublish option, a la Instagram, I may not have deleted everything. But they don’t, so this was my only option to start with a clean slate.1
I found a small script someone wrote on Github, forked it, and then modified it quite significantly. The script and instructions are on my Github account. You’ll need to be comfortable at the command line if you want to use it. It’s rough, and I offer no guarantees that it will run smoothly for you. Also, keep in mind – it will delete all of your tweets, and there is no undo. Keep your backup archive safe, and make sure this is what you want: delete everything.
To get around the 3200 tweet API issue mentioned above, the script uses the tweets.js file that comes in the data backup from Twitter, so the good thing is that you’re basically forced to download the backup to use the utility. That file contains the IDs for all of your tweets (among other things), which is all we need to issue the delete command for that tweet.
The ongoing culling of my older tweets
Again, I started with someone else’s code. I found a nice little project written in Go that leveraged AWS Lambda to run the little bot. I used this project as a chance to brush up on my Cloud Formation skills, as well. My fork, with CloudFormation templates, is on my Github account as well. There’s even a handy “Launch Stack” button if you want to set it up on your own AWS account.
The bot runs every few hours, looks for tweets in my account older than the interval I’ve configured, currently set at 7 days, and deletes them if it finds anything. It’s all pretty simple.
Making this a thing
As I started working through this, I starting thinking about enabling this for the other social media services I use. I don’t know why everything, from Flickr to Pinboard don’t offer ephemerality as a feature. If the feature is offered, it should be the default. As I mentioned at the start, I don’t believe we, as people, are prepared for a world with total recall of our every utterance. My thoughts on this are complicated2, but suffice to say, I am going to build tools that allow me to manage my social media presence following these guidelines.
I mentioned this to a few folks, and got a few enthusiastic “I want that for my account!” comments. So, I’m going to spin this up as a side project and see what I can cobble together. If you take a look at the code I linked to above, it’s very simplistic – fine for a single account, but not the best for a real service.
The other aspect of this I’m working on is governance. I don’t want to do this as a business – that’s not a goal. What I do want is a service that has a strong privacy stance, that offers high trust to folks that use it. One of the reasons I didn’t use the public services that are out there is that their business model is unclear.3
I am hoping to use this as an experiment in a cooperative form of governance for an online service, one where any charges are transparently used to maintain the service, where the source code is available for people to review, and where users can have some sort of assurance that the code that is released is the code that the hosted service is actually running. These seem like interesting problems regardless of the service being offered.
Because naming things is easily the most important and most fun part of any project (seriously, I have so many domain names!), I’ve decided to call this the Time Fades Project. A placeholder page is all that’s over there, but stay tuned for more.
If you have any interest in this sort of governance topic, or in contributing to the service, or in what a good set of default rules are for these sorts of ephemeral behaviors (I expect this will need to be different for different social networks), please get in touch.
I didn’t feel too bad about this, because I had an out. As part of this process, I had to download my official twitter data archive, which has everything. On top of that, I use a bookmarking service called Pinboard that has a feature that copies all my tweets and makes them searchable, privately, just for me. (It does require the paid archive feature in order to get the full text of the tweet. Otherwise it only stores a truncated version of the text.)↩
For example, I’m not in favor of the right-to-be-forgotten laws even as I want services to offer that capability on the individual service level…↩
I do think the popular ones, like TweetDelete, seem like fine options. That one, for example, is owned by a hosting company that doesn’t seem to need the revenue from a tweet deletion service.↩
Just as a public service announcement: I deactivated my Facebook account to see what it’s like to not have a Facebook account. I suspect I’m going to run into places where it’s impossible not to have one, but let’s see what it’s like.
Over the past year, especially since the 2016 election, I find Facebook… exhausting. Mentally, it’s draining. Lots of debate, lots of echoes, and mental noise in my life that I don’t really need. In January, I deleted the app from my phone to see what that was like.
I’m contemplating starting a project with a friend or two to replace the most valuable (to me) function of FB – as a clearinghouse for keeping up with your friends & family. More on that once work quiets down a little. Lots of ideas on how to structure that as a side project…
The motto of the United States is not, in fact, “Fuck you, I got mine.” It was, and should have remained, “E Pluribus Unum” — out of many, one. We’re all Americans. We all deserve the blessings this country can provide. This one is willing to pay his taxes for the benefit of the many.
Like many of you who vehemently opposed a Trump presidency, I’ve been walking around in a bit of a stunned stupor these last few days. I’m gathering my thoughts on what I want to do next, and how I can do the most I can to help bring about a more respectful world. There has to be a better way for us to talk to each other, and a better way to be humans to each other.
Until then, I’ve been reflecting on what I know:
I know I can’t comprehend running away, even though given my current work experience, I could probably easily find a job overseas. I also can’t see disengaging, Garrison Keillor, “Let them deal with it” style. I love my country too much, and I know evil flourishes only when good people do nothing.
I know most Trump voters aren’t KKK style racists. Thus, I don’t blame Trump voters en masse for the racism and bigotry that’s emerging (and sure to get worse) or think they’re all racists.
I know that many of non-racist, non-sexist Trump voters seem blind to the limitations of their own experiences and the biases that creates. I hope that the these voters recognize the real fear that many minorities are feeling after the election. It is real. There are real fears here informed by real violence happening right now, real fears caused by un-American behavior.
I know that we, as a society, seem to be lacking in basic empathy these days. We are too willing to believe people we disagree with are stupid or blind or ignorant. Please try to approach your fellow Americans with an open mind and an willingness to understand their perspective. You don’t need to agree – but it’s better than assuming they’re idiots or stupid for being scared. I try to assume people are acting in good faith until they prove they aren’t.
I know that Facebook and Twitter have fed a lot of the divisiveness this election cycle, no matter what Mark Zuckerberg says, or what picture Jack Dorsey paints about his own beliefs. We don’t all need to agree, but we do need to agree on a common set of facts and some shared truths. We can and should interpret those according to our own beliefs and our own perspectives, but we can’t disagree on whether gravity works or that 2+2=4. For a lot of reasons, we have receded into echo chambers, and we need to do something about it (or it will get a lot worse).
I know the Democratic party as it stands doesn’t work the way I want it to anymore. We need to help the party evolve, possibly by working outside the party. Tea Partiers organized. Folks that have an alternative need to do the same.
I know I need to engage more. More at the local level. More at the state level. And then maybe at the federal level. The question in front of me is, “How?”
That’s the question that will preoccupy me until we move back home. I’ll probably not write anything else until then. I won’t be able to help but retweet the odd Trump item on Twitter, but I’m going to dial back on social media, read and follow what he does, and talk offline to friends and family. It’s time to get to work.
But I tell you what, though. [Long pause.] I’m named Barack Hussein Obama. I’m African-American. And I’ve been elected twice to this office with the majorities of the American people. So something is working.
Workers in the experimental group were told they could work wherever, and whenever, they chose so long as projects were completed on time and goals were met; the new emphasis would be on results rather than on the number of hours spent in the office.
By most accounts, American Football1 started out with humble beginnings: a college sport that branched off association football (rugby) that spawned a bunch of disorganized professional organizations that eventually coalesced into the NFL and the college football behemoths we know about today.
The game started in the mid 1800s. The first professional game was in the 1890s, with the first player getting a secret single game contract that paid him $500 (a staggering $13,000 in 2016 dollars). By 1920, what would be the NFL was born. Players were averaging a few thousand dollars a year ($27K in 2016 dollars) by the 30s and often took second jobs to make ends meet. By the 70s, the modern game and the college game began to take the form we see today. The rest you know: Billions of dollars and a billion fans watching for it’s marquee event.
I admit, I also was a little confused why a game I personally had never heard of, let alone played, was worth broadcasting on TV. Being me, that meant I started doing my research: learned about big prizes and huge audiences, read about the massive popularity of eSports in Korea, and looked at the games themselves.
That these games are the popular tournament ones makes sense to me. I used to love RTS games back in the day2. These RTS games are the predecessor to LoL, Dota 2, and Vainglory. MOBAs still share a lot in common with their ancestors. These games are a mix of:
pure reflex and physical skill
complex strategy carried out on a deceptively simple field
clear, easy to understand objectives
Actually, kind of like the NFL.
In other words, if you don’t play, you can still tell what’s going on at a basic level (kill the other team, take an objective). But if you play… wow, there are layers to unfold and strategies to debate and technique to admire.
I don’t play Dota or LoL, which is why a single Dota 2 broadcast couldn’t keep my attention for the whole event. I thought it was cool, recognized the RTS heritage, and basically went back to watching sports.
One day, I picked up Vainglory. It’s a free MOBA for iOS which was featured during an Apple event. I dove in and immediately was hooked. I wrote about Vainglory (indirectly) last year. At that time, I had been playing the game frequently for months, so now (except for a couple month hiatus around the birth of my daughter) I’ve been playing this game for over a year. I literally play a round most nights before I head to bed.
I’m naturally competitive, and so naturally I want to be good at this game… Which is when the whole thing finally clicked.
In the Twitch post, I likened watching Twitch to the Golf Network. Boring if you’re not a golfer, but a great source of tips and help if you are. This is true of the entire community around video gaming now. For example, I’ve been watching videos on YouTube like BenTimm1’s videos to learn strategy and tactics. Tournaments are often streamed on Twitch.tv, so that’s another good resource.
Vainglory also has televised tournaments in Korea. The Vainglory IPL is broadcast on OGN, “a South Korean cable television channel that specializes in broadcasting video game-related content and eSports matches.” Here’s one of their broadcasts of a Vainglory IPL final:
Those are pretty good production values, which isn’t very surprising given the popularity of eSports in Korea. You can see a huge improvement, though, as each subsequent tournament is streamed. There’s a big improvement in the commentary, for example, even from the Vainglory World Invitational final, which took place right before the IPL tournament embedded above.
It’s important to note that this is for Vainglory, a relative newcomer to the MOBA and eSports world. Take everything I’ve said above and amplify it for LoL or Dota 2. This is a shot from Wikipedia of the Dota 2 finals crowd in Seattle:
While the Great Depression hurt the growth of the NFL, it did provide one benefit: it convinced otherwise respectable men to turn to football as a primary source of income. These were college educated men, disproportionately from white collar families who probably would’ve pursued other opportunities. This raised the talent level, making the league stronger and likely creating a feedback loop3.
Vainglory, my favorite, is still small, paying out 10s of thousands for their grand prizes. Dota 2 has much higher payouts and an enormous prize pool. LoL is further along in their growth, and their tournaments provide a sense of where things are going. Riot Games, makers of League of Legends, provides salaries for their tournament players along with travel stipends. Make the choice to leap into professional eSports easier and the talent should follow.
All of that combined makes being a professional “League of Legends” player a viable career opportunity. This helps the game reach its full potential, because we want to avoid our pro players coming under financial stress and having to hold down part-time jobs. We want to make it so being a pro player is a completely viable career opportunity.
It’s still not huge money. With sponsors involved, some of these players are making a decent living, even if they need to also have a side job. Kind of like the early NFL.
The big MOBAs are growing the infrastructure around eSports in a way that points to a sustainable future. There are campus organizations forming along with amateur associations. There’s also more mainstream acceptance of gaming thanks to smartphones, and thus a bigger potential audience. The choice to play competitively is getting easier to make for players. Those trends just need to continue in the same direction, and eSports could be a huge thing. Maybe… kind of like the NFL.
I was a decent Starcraft player in my youth, and related titles like Warcraft III and Command and Conquer are still some of my favorite games. And wow, I didn’t realize C&C was still being released…↩
I didn’t find too many sources aside from that one book (which I only have the Google excerpts for – it’s out of print, it seems). The draft came to be toward the end of the Depression and pre-WWII, which could correlate. It’s unclear (to me, right now) if the draft initially was because of an abundance of potential players or a way to entice players in. Worth doing more reading around this.↩