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    • I had coffee yesterday with an important influencer in Silicon Valley to tell them what we're doing with Cake and our dreams with panel conversations. They said be careful of investor pressure for growth because it will transform your creation into something different from where it began. Look at Instagram.

      Instagram began as an app to share photos of the world with your friends, but in the pursuit of growth and ad dollars, it became a competition to become a social media influencer so you could get brands to pay you for hawking their stuff.

      I dunno, What's your experience?

    • First of all, I have to say that it feels extremely positive to learn that you're not only willing to have this discussion when it comes up, but that you are proactively leading the discussion.

      Second, some random thoughts that are hopefully somehow relevant to the discussion.

      a) I'm wary about that whole "influencer" thing going on. On other platforms, whatever the form of content is, I want to follow people because they produce something that I like - not because I want to be "influenced" by them.

      b) The article you linked to seems to make this connection, so I want to state that, for me, this is not the same as being against any form of algorithm-supported discovery. If there's content that I would love to experience, and there's an algorithm that is able to suggest this content to me, that's great. What I don't want, however, is for random content creators to be hyped by the platform for reasons other than that. Any algorithm like that should work more like match-making ("bring like-minded people together, independent of their status on the platform"), and less like a motor for artificial growth ("try to give the person with 100K followers an additional 10K followers, so that they continue churning out more of the same mindless stuff that we can use to place ads").

      c) On another platform, I had some of my content "featured", and it was not a good experience at all. On the one hand, my follower number exploded without the number of people that actually interacted with me in any meaningful way following the same trend. On the other hand, while individual posts were displayed on some "feature page", I got tons of spam comments (because, of course it is attractive for spammers to have a single high-visibility target instead of a dozen small ones). In combination, I had more work for less fun, and eventually stopped providing the content altogether, to avoid the hassle.

      d) Last but not least, I believe that, if a platform allows people to have a vastly wider reach than they would have under "normal" circumstances, that platform is also morally responsible for what happens due to that wider reach. Just a decade ago, some racist idiot would perhaps spew their vitriol over a beer, sitting together with just the few friends not totally appalled by what they hear. Today, through a combination of filter bubbles and artificially increased reach, that same person can reach a huge audience not only of like-minded individuals but also of those that are still susceptible to that sort of content. I'm convinced that we wouldn't have many of the problems we currently have in the world (whether that's in the US or in Europe) if it weren't for platforms like Facebook.

    • The problem with this argument is that it is an excellent position against allowing free publication of books.

      After all, some books are advertised by some publishers, and if we allow publishers to advertise books – you might be "influenced" by them. And since just talking about a book is some of the best advertising that exists, clearly we shouldn't allow organizations of people to talk about books.

      Likewise, we shouldn't allow communications platforms like the public square, people on the street, or the local public house to promote books to people that associate in those places because they might want to promote writers or topics you think don't deserve promotion.

      And, of course, if you are promoted by an organization which you have no ties to, it's their fault if some third-party does something stupid. Exactly like it's your fault if some third-party does something stupid because of the book you wrote.

      Every owner of a printing press is now morally responsible for every single book that rolls off of their press. Morally. Forget the idea that the promotion of conflicting and contrasting ideas makes society a better place, that individual citizens can resolve their differences better if they are better educated about what other people think, that some people might write books on topics that you find to be trivial or horrible or offensive and that's okay because you don't have to buy them. Forget all that. Because individuals don't have to buy every book that exists and are capable of deciding what they want to expose themselves to and because books make it very easy to carry speech across city lines, the publication of books should absolutely be ceased or at least subject to the most draconian of law because of the potential for social destruction.

      I'm convinced that we wouldn't have many of the problems we currently have in the world (whether that's in the US or Europe) if it weren't for Guttenberg and his pack of cruel bastards.

      Just because a process involves the mass murder of electrons in order to share communications more widely, that doesn't make it essentially different from any other form of communication. I know freedom of speech is the most terrifying specter descending on the world, but for some reason I just have this strange urge to maintain both individual and organizational choice when it comes to freedom of speech.

    • To be honest, even after reading your post several times, I'm not really sure how I'm supposed to take it. Some arguments seem to be straight-forward, while others are obviously hyperbolic. In between you're taking things I said terribly out of context. The common thread seems to be the idea that "if Facebook is bad, then so are books", so let me just randomly point out some differences between the two:

      Cost (in time, effort and money) of having a book written, edited and printed vs. posting some crap on Facebook.

      Ease of "spreading the word" - pick a random book off your shelf, and then try to get a random acquaintance to read it. Then share a cat photo with all your Facebook friends with just one click. Then tell us which of the two things was easier to achieve.

      Virality - as an extension of the above, how likely are both groups of people to themselves suggest either your book or your Facebook post to others?

      Liability - books typically have an imprint, whereas I could just create a dozen Facebook anonymous profiles to post whatever I like. Of course, you could just print your book yourself anonymously as well, but that would just make all of the above stuff much harder.

      Dark patterns, like profiling people and just addressing those susceptible to your message, paying to reach more people, advertising disguised as personal opinion, ... all of that isn't impossible in the book world, but so much easier on web platforms.

      All combined (and I could go on...), it's likely some orders of magnitude easier to convince a significant number of people via Facebook than it is via books. So, yeah, if you're trying to rile up people with a book, then of course you are also morally responsible for that. It's just the case that isn't nearly as easy to do, which means that you're more likely to have thought all of that trough before you're even attempting it.

    • First of all, I have to say that it feels extremely positive to learn that you're not only willing to have this discussion when it comes up, but that you are proactively leading the discussion.

      Agreed.

      There obviously needs to be the right balance between mission and sustainability. If there is amazing community engagement where new and veteran voices can shine, but it comes at the expense of investor expectations, then Cake won’t continue.

      The long copy norm of conversations and posts here obviously lends itself to multiple in content ads that can be targeted in a way that Facebook can’t provide to its advertisers. What that means to me is that you can achieve Facebook level financial returns without (a) having to grow your user base as large as Facebook or (b) having to generate as many posts per minute as Twitter.

      Which means the platform can spend more time on moderation, identifying and resolving problems when they’re still in the small and manageable state, and proactively coming up with features that enhance community rather than destroying it.

    • Every owner of a printing press is now morally responsible for every single book that rolls off of their press. Morally.

      Having worked in publishing, we thought about moral issues second and legal issues first. For example, publishing child pornography is illegal. We didn't need to debate its morality.

      The Supreme Court has held that "advocacy of the use of force" is unprotected when it is "directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action" and is "likely to incite or produce such action". Is it moral? Probably not, but that isn't what our huge team of lawyers was there to decide.

      I think freedom of speech is wonderful and we should cherish and protect how much freedom we've been given, but like the freedom to drive, we can wreck it by abusing it. It needs some limits. I think, for example, making child pornography illegal to publish is a good call, even in the context of free speech.

    • It is important that there be a clear distinction between freedom of speech and/or expression and the idea that a rejection of content by a non-governmental entity constitutes an attack on free speech.

      These days some people act as if freedom of speech is more than freedom from being prosecuted, jailed, fined, executed, etc. for the things that one says.

      Cake.co cannot prevent someone from saying or publishing content in some other locale than the Cake.co platform. Therefore, Cake cannot take away anyone's power to free speech. A rejection of content by Cake does not constitute criminalizing free speech.

      Those who protest that their freedom of speech is being suppressed when no governmental action has been taken against them are either ignorant or attempting to "game the system."

      By the way, this is an example of a situation in which I would like there to be a way to "spin off" the topic first mentioned by lextenebris from the subject which you had in mind when this conversation was first initiated.

    • It is important that there be a clear distinction between freedom of speech and/or expression and the idea that a rejection of content by a non-governmental entity constitutes an attack on free speech.

      Exactly. Several times while reading posts on Hacker News I've seen moderators say "you can't speak that way on Hacker News." It wasn't accusatory and didn't get into a free speech debate, it was just a way to keep things civil.

      Reddit has something similar in r/politics, a simple reminder that the sub is for civil debate. I think both Hacker News and r/politics have remained popular and on the rails because of those guidelines. They were never sinister plots to kill free speech.

    • I know some people would disagree with me, but I do think that the government should be allowed to limit speech at a specific location for a specific amount of time.

      At election time, there is usually a distance around the polling area within which electioneering is not allowed. Outside of that area, political speech is allowed. During the time period before the polls open and after the polls close, political speech is allowed anywhere.

      Another example pertains to people who want to engage in cruel and hostile speech at the time of a funeral. They can do so anywhere farther than 1 mile away from the funeral and anytime before and after the time of the funeral but I do not think they should be legally allowed to do so where the funeral is during the time of the funeral.

      The idea that some have that free speech means being able to say things at anyplace and at anytime, I think is also a wrong concept.

    • To your comment

      “Just because a process involves the mass murder of electrons in order to share communications more widely, that doesn't make it essentially different from any other form of communication.”

      I strongly disagree as I believe the notion of influence in a connected world is far more dangerous than in an analog world. A study funded by the Air Force, NSF, and DARPA demonstrated an effect called the Majority Illusion which “ is the phenomenon in which an individual can observe a behavior or attribute in most of his or her friends, even though it is rare in the network as a whole.”

      An effect front and center in the Facebook Russian hacking of the 2016 U.S. Presidential election where thousands of fake articles were shared millions of times. Everyday, I see sketchy memes and articles shared by people I know to be intelligent on both sides of the political aisle. Are you telling me if they had to go to the library to find a book with mistruths and make a thousand copies of said mistruths and mail it to a thousand strangers, this would hold the same consequence? It wouldn't because they wouldn't do it. It would be too difficult.

      On social they can do the same thing in a 2 second scan of a meme and a 2 second share to thousands if not millions of recipients. An amplifier of mistruths like never seen before. And many of the people sharing are known to the recipient which increases the odds of another share. What has made influence on the web so dangerous is the ease to which it can be wielded which is why I am a fan of better tools to put us in the driver seat of conditioning our expressions and filtering our impressions.

      When you break it down should the reward of understanding co exist without effort? Universal access of information based on permissions and abilities within flexible and reasonable transaction costs, yes. Without effort, no. Because when effort is taken out of the equation are we not more easily influenced? Even more so in a connected world.

      SOURCES
      Article on the Majority Illusion
      https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.technologyreview.com/s/538866/the-social-network-illusion-that-tricks-your-mind/amp/

      Majority Illusion study
      https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0147617

    • Another example pertains to people who want to engage in cruel and hostile speech at the time of a funeral.

      That reminds me of what happened to Zelda Williams, the daughter of Robin Williams, soon after his suicide. Twitter Trolls posted grotesque photoshopped images of him and taunted her.

      Honestly, when I hear someone passionately arguing for nearly unlimited free speech online, I get suspicious that either they want to be able to say some pretty terrible things on major networks where they can be seen, or they have never worked in content moderation for a major network. It only takes a few minutes on the job as content moderator to realize there have to be some limits.

    You've been invited!