Barriers to Entry

In my last post, and in an upcoming podcast, I discussed setting up barriers to entry for social networks as a way to prevent trolls from entering platforms. I was quickly reminded by my wife that, even though I was advocating for keeping “bad people” out, these barriers can often by used by people to exclude any group of people the community sees as unfit.

Money disadvantages those who can’t spare it. Technological requirements disadvantage those who don’t have the know-how. Personal vetting disadvantages anyone who isn’t part of your clique. It’s a short walk from there to excluding people because of gender, race, etc.

Ultimately, you end up enforcing the same broken systems that exist in real life social groups, and that’s not what we should strive for on the internet or anywhere else. Inclusion of all people, regardless of who they are, is what we should always aim for.

To be clear: my intent was not to suggest that we create barriers that exclude people in order to enforce bias. Instead, I was suggesting that having a cost-of-entry, however small, can create just enough friction to keep bad actors from bothering your community because they won’t want to expend the necessary resources to join.

The problem with this is that the available barriers are the same ones we’ve always used. How do we keep out the bad while letting in the good? How do we disenfranchise bad actors without accidentally disenfranchising someone who would enrich the community? How do we make sure that our definition of good isn’t someone else’s definition of bad and vice versa? Are some barriers more justifiable than others? If so, why, and according to whom?

As long as people are making these decisions, whether intentional or not, I believe the results will always be biased in one way or another. I’m afraid the idea of a pure community that’s open to everyone, where there are no barriers, where people who act out against one or all of the group’s members are dealt with in a way that’s agreeable to everyone inside and outside the community, will never exist. I’d like to be proven wrong.

The EU is going to stop participating in daylight saving time.

Related: I’m now moving to the EU.

My buddy @nahumck is working on some pretty rad Drafts actions that WordPress users are going to want to keep an eye on.

Just used the word “identificator” during a call.

🤦🏻‍♂️

MORE CAFFEINE, STAT

Wil Wheaton Leaves Mastodon

I’m done with social media. Maybe I just don’t fit into whatever the social media world is. I mean, the people who are all over the various Mastodon instances made it really clear that I wasn’t welcome there (with a handful of notable, joyful, exceptions, mostly related to my first baby steps into painting), and it seems as if I was just unwelcome because … I’m me? I guess?

Folks are saying that community management is the solution. That if you have good tools in place, this sort of thing is avoidable. To that, I say: unless your community management system can scale to 7 billion users, it’ll never work. Technology can’t solve the problem; you’d have to change human behavior, and that’s not gonna happen.

An open-door policy means anyone can come in, and they will, and they’ll bring their hate and negativity and bigotry with them. Unless you control who gets in (either directly through moderation or indirectly through obfuscation or inserting on-boarding costs like fees or requiring certain technological know-how), the masses will show up. Some of them will bring their tiki torches.

This isn’t a solvable problem, at least not from a technological standpoint. It’s a problem inherent in who we are. People will always find a reason to dislike each other.

I think we should all follow Wil’s lead. Stop using social media. Delete our accounts. “Walk hand in hand into extinction. One last midnight. Brothers and sisters opting out of a raw deal.”

Or, at the very least, find some communities that are private or that present barriers to entry that trolls won’t or can’t cross. And then, when you’ve found a nice place to hang out, at least try to treat people decently.

Well, gave up on Mastodon after yesterday’s drama about Wil Wheaton. Micro.blog is officially my last (public) place to hang out on the web. I’m fine with that. Less is more. And I like this place.