No Longer Social

No more Twitter, Instagram, or even Micro.blog (even though that place is still great). No more syndicating my posts to various networks. My accounts still exist, but I’ve made most of my profiles private. For the foreseeable future, this site is the only place I’ll be posting anything publicly. I keep in touch with folks now solely through Messages.app and Slack.

I’ve stopped reading most news sites, opting instead for a list of RSS feeds in Reeder. Speaking of, here’s the feed for my link and article posts, and here’s the feed for my status updates.

Why? Dunno. Just feels like the right time?

I rage-quit Twitter last month after seeing a post that made me angrier than I’ve been in quite some time, and that made me start to rethink things. I don’t want to feel like that, and I certainly don’t want to voluntarily put stuff in front of me that gets in my head that way.

I’ll miss some of the voices on Twitter and the photos on Instagram (especially the folks who post their comics there–those were great). But Instagram is really just Facebook, and Twitter is a rage machine designed to evoke anger.

So much anger. I started asking myself daily, “How do so many people have so much energy to be so angry all of the time?” On the other side of the equation are culture warriors and edge lords who do nothing but try to provoke others, and it works.

I don’t get it. I don’t get any of it. I’d rather be a non-combatant.

The Problem With Craft

There’s a relatively new iOS and Mac note taking app called Craft. It’s absolutely beautiful, a joy to use, and loaded with clever touches that show its developers are trying very hard to make a fun and useful app.

I’ve used it for a few days. The live collaboration is great and a solid alternative to Google Docs. The forward-slash command to access a keyboard-navigable set of menus is brilliant.

I really really like it. I want to keep using it, but I won’t.

The company behind Craft has no discernible business model other than selling subscriptions to Craft’s more advanced users. Their website says nothing about who they are, who’s on their team, or who’s providing funding for development.

Your documents live in Craft’s own storage and syncing service. You can opt out and store your documents elsewhere, but then you lose access to their collaboration features. Data isn’t encrypted end-to-end, meaning Craft’s dev team could theoretically view your documents. They could monetize your data by scraping it for personal information a la Google. If their databases are ever compromised, your notes could end up exposed for anyone to read.

Since your data lives on their servers, they could pull an Evernote and stop allowing easy exporting to other formats, locking you into their platform against your will right before taking away other features and/or raising prices.

Your notes are one Our Incredible Journey email away from becoming the property of a bigger company that might do who knows what with them.

Maybe I’ve been burned too many times by trusting apps that eventually shifted business models and tried to run away with or sell my data, but Craft’s choices, like rolling their own storage system, make me super nervous. As lovely as the app is, I can’t trust it.

UPDATE 2021-03-08

Because I can’t seem to let this go, I did a little digging.

The Craft press kit mentions a person named Viktor Pali, so I Googled him. I found his LinkedIn page, which also links to the Craft company page. Based in Budapest, they appear to employ at least 13 people, 8 of which are developers.

Also on their LinkedIn page is a CruchBase profile showing that they’ve taken venture capital from a London-based firm called InReach Ventures. The amount isn’t available, but it’s worth noting that InReach has itself also taken VC funding to build an AI platform.

We never disclosed it, but we actually raised more capital to be able to keep pushing the innovation envelop of our technology platform.

A VC firm funded a VC firm that funded a note taking app. Too many people involved with Craft are expecting an exit at some point. Caveat emptor.

USA Downgraded from Democracy to Anocracy (“Part Democracy and Part Dictatorship”) – Kottke.org

Jason Kottke:

Their analysis also places the US at “high risk of impending political instability (i.e., adverse regime change and/or onset of political violence)” and designates “the ongoing efforts of the USA executive to circumvent electoral outcomes and subvert democratic processes as an ‘attempted (presidential) coup’”.

This, plus yesterday’s terrorism alert from DHS about possible impending political violence from the right, makes it pretty clear that the US is headed for a Real Bad Time™, and there may not be much we can do about it.

Trump Fails to Ascend as God Emperor, Leaving Diehard Fans Adrift – Vice.com

Anna Merlan and Mack Lamoureux:

At least one group, the Proud Boys, has seized upon the void Trump’s departure has left in his followers’ lives. On one of their official channels on Telegram they tell Trump fans “here is hope. Not for Trump to become president, but there is hope for our future. Abandon the GOP. Embrace the ultranationalist 3rd position.”

This is exactly what we should be worried about right now. White supremacist groups tend to use moments like this to recruit people, which is why it’s important to make sure they don’t have access to places where recruitment can happen.

Deplatforming isn’t just about getting the loud, obnoxious Nazi out of the bar. You want to make sure he doesn’t come back with his friends and start putting up flyers.

US police three times as likely to use force against leftwing protesters, data finds | The Guardian

Lois Beckett:

The statistics, based on law enforcement responses to more than 13,000 protests across the United States since April 2020, show a clear disparity in how agencies have responded to the historic wave of Black Lives Matter protests against police violence, compared with demonstrations organized by Trump supporters.

No one who watched what happened a week ago at the Capitol should be surprised by this.

Also very important:

The US Crisis Monitor previously found that, despite Trump’s rhetoric and the intense media coverage of property damage or violence during protests this summer against police violence, more than 93% of Black Lives Matter protests since April had involved no harm to people or damage to property.

COVID-19, Day 272

This was the week that virtual school finally got to all of us. Miriam and I have both been really busy with work. We moved our youngest kid’s desk into our office so we could all work together. Meanwhile, our oldest has been working from a desk in her bedroom. So far, it’s been fine.

We caught the youngest watching Minecraft videos in picture-in-picture mode WHILE STILL IN CLASS after her teacher told us she called on her four times and didn’t get a response. We got an email from our oldest’s teacher today saying that she’s been making things with clay during class and is so distracted that she couldn’t answer questions and then refused to put the clay away.

We’ve all been having sleep disturbances. Miriam and I have been having random bouts of insomnia. I got maybe 4 hours of sleep Wednesday night, and I was up for a couple of hours last night. The youngest is waking up earlier and earlier, getting up in the middle of the night. When she wakes up, she wakes her sister up, who then complains loudly and wakes us up.

Most weeks, by Thursday or Friday, they both have dark circles under their eyes and look exhausted. The kindergartener broke down this evening because “the learning is too hard.” She says she wakes her sister up in the morning “because I don’t have any friends and I’m lonely.”

I’m really glad there’s a break coming up. We’ll all get a chance to reset. But that starts on the 21st, and I figure next week will be even worse than this week was.

And winter hasn’t even started yet.

How the U.S. Military Buys Location Data from Ordinary Apps – Vice.com

Joseph Cox:

The most popular app among a group Motherboard analyzed connected to this sort of data sale is a Muslim prayer and Quran app that has more than 98 million downloads worldwide. Others include a Muslim dating app, a popular Craigslist app, an app for following storms, and a “level” app that can be used to help, for example, install shelves in a bedroom.

The focus on Muslims by a US anti-terror organization seems incredibly bigoted, especially when ultra-conservative white American males tend to pose a far bigger threat to our safety than Muslims do.

Bigotry aside, it’s been a bad few days for data privacy. Last week, Apple’s new OS update gave Apple’s own services the ability to sidestep the APIs Apple requires firewalls and VPN software to use, and the same trick could be exploited (easily!) by a bad actor.

The VPN provider I use says they’re looking into it to see if they’re affected. I hope they aren’t, but I bet they are.

Developers also found Big Sur to be phoning home, sending identifiable information about every app you open to Apple’s servers, and the data wasn’t even transmitted securely over HTTPS. Apple claims they’re going to patch that up, but we’ll see.

I was also shocked to see that iMessage is no longer considered secure if you’re using iCloud backup. Apparently that’s old news, but it was new to me. At least we still have Signal.

In the meantime, I’m evaluating Linux-based laptops.

How to Avoid a Surprise Bill for Your Coronavirus Test – The New York Times

Sarah Kliff:

Congress wrote rules in March that aimed to make coronavirus testing free for all Americans. Patients, with or without insurance, have found holes in those new coverage programs. They’ve faced bills that range from a few dollars to over $1,000.

What a sad state of affairs. An explainer like this should not be necessary.

Also, I argue with the phrasing here. Did the patients find these holes? Or did the people profiting off the holes find and exploit them? If the patient found a hole, it’s likely they fell into it like a trapping pit.

Newsom attended French Laundry party with more households than California advises during pandemic – SFChronicle.com

Alexei Koseff:

State guidelines limit gatherings, defined as “social situations that bring together people from different households at the same time in a single space or place,” to no more than three households. Representatives for Kinney and Newsom declined to specify how many households the diners represented, but did not dispute that it was more than three.

Even with Dems: restrictions for thee but not for me.

See also this dinner being held tonight for new members of the House that Nancy Pelosi said is “safe.”

Update: Dems canceled their in-person dinner.