Wednesday 27th April, 2022 - Mid-week special: Navigating the big tech mess
Hello and welcome to my newsletter!
Another season 2 instalment…
I’ve been thinking a lot about protocols recently. And that led to a deep dive into web standards. Just wanted to mention that upfront because we’ll come back to that in a bit.
The big news this past week has been Elon Musk trying to buy Twitter. The story had already broke last week, I mentioned it, but so much has happened since then. It’s been and continues to be a real rollercoaster ride.
He’s building autonomous electric cars to transform the automotive industry and save the Earth from climate change.
He’s building space rockets, has a plan to colonise another planet with an armada of space tourists so that the entire human species can become multi-planetary.
He likes to have direct contact with his customers and fans via social media. He’s a big free speech advocate. He does things the modern way, he’s an engineer, super elite but “one of us”.
I listened to his interviews on TED, and I liked a lot of what he said. Twitter has become very toxic over the years. It’s nothing like the optimistic / welcoming place it was in the early days. It feels like a hopeless situation, but Elon Musk is trying to put people on friggin Mars, if anybody can make Twitter great again, surely it’s Elon the meme king. It might even be fun.
There was quite a reaction from the Twitter board of directors, talk of ‘poison pills’. I have no idea what that is, but it sure doesn’t sound good. Is this the real world?
I read Mike Masnick’s rather negative review of the situation. I like much of what Mike writes about and listen to his podcast. He’s been in the trenches of the web for years and knows his stuff. I thought much of the first half of his article was kind of weak though, a lot of complaining amounting to ‘it’s too damn difficult’. However he does make a lot of very valid points towards the end, even if he spends a lot of time trying to prove that Elon was contradicting himself. Yeah maybe he did contradict himself, so fucking what, it was a live interview. Still though, on the whole I liked Mike’s rather shouty article. Rock on.
It’s not to say that the challenge isn’t considerable. It’s enormous. The whole thing is a mess, or perhaps a mess in a bigger mess, or maybe even, a mess in a bigger mess in an even bigger mess.
Anyway, back to Protocols and Web Standards. Like I was saying earlier, about 3 weeks ago, I started reading up on them. I’ve been interested in protocols since getting into blogging and podcasting around 2004ish. Back then it was all about RSS. Then there was BitTorrent, and Bitcoin and of course I’ve had contact with other older protocols,like FTP, SMTP, DNS etc just through working in tech. I wanted to get a better sense for the overall landscape, and so I started reading.
It’s vast. Really really vast. And it’s a mess! Wow what a mess. I’m amazed how well it all works given how much of a mess it is.
It’s like a huge collection of grave yards. We live in a huge collection of grave yards and we call it hyperspace. And honestly, that’s probably the best approach because if you realised how much of an enormous mess it actually was, I think most people would slowly do a 3 point turn, and get back to whatever they were previously doing.
I started noticing that a lot of people recently have been talking about web standards. There seems to be a push to get things written using web standards. The latest release of NodeJS has “browser compatible” Fetch and Web Streams APIs implemented under experimental flags. I like the sound of it, so I did a bunch of reading about that too.
Guess what, it’s also a mess! But it’s sort of less messy. But it’s a mess. Trying to get a basic list of the Web Standards is a lot more difficult than you’d expect. Anyway, this is obviously going to be a longer journey than I’d anticipated.
The universe must of somehow gotten wind of my quaint Protocols and Web Standards promenade, because a few days after embarking on that, it was like, that’s nothing mate, and proceeded to unleash a truely epic mind buffet firehose.
That started off with some really interesting interviews with Michael Saylor about Bitcoin. Worth taking the time to hear some first principles type thinking about Bitcoin architecture, building on good foundations, and 1000+ years time horizons. Lots of great insight. Remember he’s an engineer, but he’s also a very good sales guy. Doesn’t mean he’s not making some good and valid points, but worth bearing that in mind.
David Pierce who hosts Protocol’s Source Code Podcast, somewhat unexpectedly moved to the Verge. Another strange coincidence to add to the infinite list of strange coincidences.
The universe then upped the bar somewhat, with podcasts covering The Procession of the Equinoxes, Merlin and the history of the British before the Roman Empire, and some fascinating pods about Jesus and the Jews. In this realm, the mess is on a different scale all together. It’s such a big mess it actually starts to seem kind of amusing in some places, but it gets very very dark in others. How is this related to tech?
Well that’s the world outside the tech bubble. Or at least it’s the causal chain that we went through to get to our present moment. You might not be experiencing it directly, but a lot of people are, and I think it’s important to at least be aware of it because it has a much bigger influence on the future we are building than I think we realise.
Be aware of it to avoid being controlled by it. We have agency, we can build a better future.
Among this information avalanche, the world has been blocking a lot of what I’ve been doing. It’s favourite pastime at the minute seems to be epic firehose followed immediately by blocking. That’s the best way I can find to describe it right now. I know it sounds weird.
I wish this issue of the newsletter was a bit more polished, but honestly I’m just exhausted. It’s a mess, but at least I managed to get this mid-week special out before Friday.
My tiny newsletter - it’s a mess
Tech - it’s a big mess
Culture - it’s an even bigger mess
Religion and history - it’s such a massive mess that things start to get propper wierd
Hopefully this messy map that took me 44 years to put together will help some of you out there.
I wrote a blog post!
You wouldn’t believe how much blocking I had to get through to write this article.
Elon Musk Demonstrates How Little He Understands About Content Moderation
Protocol stack (Wikipedia)
List of network protocols (OSI model) (Wikipedia)
Web standards (Wikipedia)
David Pierce returns to The Verge to join the cast of The Vergecast
The future of Twitter (Another Podcast Podcast)
Elon Musk talks Twitter, Tesla and how his brain works (TED Daily Podcast)
Elon and Twitter: A love/hate story (Recode Media Podcast)
Michael Saylor - Bitcoin, inflation and the future of money (Lex Fridman Podcast)
Courtland talking tech with his twin brother Channing Ep #250 (Indie Hackers Podcast)
Damien Echols and Lori Davies on the Procession of the Equinoxes (Duncan Trussel Podcast)
Merlin, Magic and the British (The Rest is History Podcast)
Crucifixion (The Rest is History Podcast)
The Jews Against Rome (The Rest is History Podcast)
The Jewish Revolt (The Rest is History Podcast)
That’s all from me…
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Have a great weekend and a fantastic next week!