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Tuesday Overnight Open Thread (4/18/23) | Main | The Morning Report — 4/19/23
April 19, 2023

Daily Tech News 19 April 2023

Top Story

  • Carcinisation is the process whereby everything that isn't already a crab, gradually becomes a crab. (Wikipedia)

    King crabs are not crabs. Nor are porcelain crabs, or hermit crabs, or coconut crabs, or hairy stone crabs. They are all the result of carcinisation, where various other decapod crustaceans evolved exactly the same outward characteristics as true crabs, to the point that you can't really tell them apart.

    This also happens to social networks.

    Yes, they turn into crabs.

  • Not my analogy either: This article by Ellis Hamburger (really) formerly of Snap - the company behind Snapchat - makes the point that all social networks start out as butterflies and evolve into crabs. (The Verge)

    It's well-written and has the insights expected of someone who spent years on the inside of one of these companies watching naive promises gradually wither in the face of commercial reality and the fact that people in large groups basically suck.

    The author doesn't have a solution to this and doesn't pretend to offer one:
    Users seem doomed to be unhappy in this overquantified world of "social." And businesses seem doomed to expect more from the social services they create. Perhaps this was just a blip in the journey of tech, born of a time when oversharing was novel and fun. Indeed, I remember the joy of posting hundreds of photos to Facebook the day after a party, excited to relive those memories with friends. At the time, it felt like a new form of connection.

    Now, I just text them.

    A big part of the reason here is that the financial incentives of the social media companies are horribly skewed:
    However, the promise of ads may simply be too good to turn down. Advertisers are simply willing to pay more for the product than its actual users. In Facebook's case, the company makes something like $200 per year of ad revenue on each American user, but how many of those users would pay $15 / month to use Facebook? According to one study, not many.
    If you're more valuable as a product than as a customer, that's how you can expect to be treated.

    The thing is, the ads really aren't worth anything. I've seen one ad in all my years on social media that inspired me to buy something, and I didn't, and now I've forgotten what it was for.

Tech News

  • Cory Doctorow, writing about TikTok, called this process "enshittification". (Pluarlistic)

    They're editing the likes of Agatha Christie, P. G. Wodehouse, and Roald Dahl to avoid offending modern sensibilities - of illiterates - but at least we have a new generation of wordsmiths like Doctorow to fill in the gap.

    Bitter sarcasm aside, Doctorow has been observing the tech industry for a long time, and when he is reporting fact rather than his personal opinions he can provide some useful insights.

    He's a lefty - worse, a left-libertarian - so his preferred solution to every problem is to leave everything in the hands of private companies but regulate bad outcomes out of existence, which works about as well as holding your breath until you turn blue and requires about the same level of intellectual effort.

    He is at least partly right: Twitter has crippled its APIs for exactly the same reason that Amazon murdered its Smile program where you could direct a tiny percentage of the value of your purchases to a charity of your choice: You're already on the platform, and the competition is already dead, so they don't give a fuck anymore. You're just crabs in the bucket with them, and they're the big crab.

  • And finally just by way of comparison here's the same argument made by a doctrinaire lefty who is just so stuffed full of love that she'll beat your brains out with a claw hammer if you so much as blink in the middle of her five-and-a-half thousand word temper tantrum. (Substack)

    Five and a half thousand words of blaming every bad thing that has ever happened on "the right", from Twitter being taken over by fascists like Vijaya Gadde to her favourite shade of eyeshadow (moonbat grey) being withdrawn because of lethal levels of cadmium compounds.

    Even she recognises that all social networks turn to shit.

    She just doesn't recognise her own role in that process.

  • Minisforum has a cheap Ryzen 7735HS based mini PC wait is that the ASRock industrial SBC I spy? (AnandTech)

    Looks like it, with the two HDMI ports on the back and the two USB-C ports at the front. I'll have to do a close check.

  • Broader price cuts might be coming to the RTX 4070. (Tom's Hardware)

    Nvidia's 3000 series cards all sold out immediately at launch. The 4000 series cards have never been difficult to find - because people just aren't buying them.

  • Nvidia doesn't care much because their growth market isn't $600 cards for gamers, it's $30,000 cards for AI startups. (Tom's Hardware)

    Elon Musk reportedly just bought thousands of such cards for his new venture, X.AI.

    The AI boom is the new blockchain boom, only worse for everyone.

  • Twitter meanwhile will no longer suspend your account for the vile crime of (checks notes) correctly identifying someone's name of gender. (Tech Crunch)

    The previous regime at Bird Central treated this as worse than murder. The usual suspects are up in arms that the corporate stormtroopers are no longer willing to enforce their delusions.

  • Firefly can compile BEAM applications to WASM. (GitHub)

    Which sounds like a complete fucking nightmare to me, but it can also compile BEAM applications to native code, which could be great.

    BEAM is the runtime environment for Erlang, the language invented by Ericsson to run large-scale telephone switches. The idea behind Erlang is that if a system is large enough, some part of it is guaranteed to be broken at any time. You can't predict failures, but you can predict with certainty that failures will happen.

    Erlang is designed to handle this and automatically pick up whichever part of the system has died and get it running again on whichever parts of the system are still working. It's robust and powerful and at least reasonably efficient, but running Erlang applications means first installing a complex and unfamiliar environment. Like Java written by aliens.

    Firefly should make it possible to deploy Erlang applications just like you would anything else. And to run them in the browser too, though nobody in their right mind would try that.

  • Reddit will begin charging for its API. (Tech Crunch)

    Remains to be seen if the plans they offer are as stupid as Twitter's.

  • Next-gen Python tooling, written in Rust. (Astral)

    The secret to making Python run fast is not to use Python.

    I suppose slow corporate suicide is better than fast.

  • The FTC is planning to target AI that violates civil rights (what?) or is deceptive. (Reuters)

    Not sure how AI could violate civil rights, even in law, let alone in practice.

    But given that LLMs like ChatGPT are trained explicitly to lie, the industry is fucked if the FTC actually follows through here.

  • An open letter to epic fantasy readers. (Monster Hunter Nation)

    Basically a slap in the face to Patrick Rothfuss and George R. R. Martin:
    I've written something like 25 novels, 50 short stories, 6 novellas, edited 4 anthologies, and even wrote a non-fiction book about gun rights since George Martin's last Game of Thrones novel came out
    My italics.

    I read the first Game of Thrones book. It was certainly well-written, but all the characters were awful. I never read further, and never watched the TV show.

    I read half of the first volume of Patrick Rothfuss' series, whatever it is called. The character introduced at the beginning is interesting. He has a past; he has depth, and damage, and is still standing and trying to do the right thing. So the book immediately ditches him for a literally interminable flashback to his past as a whiny kid who never fails at anything and deserves only to be served up as dragon bait.

    It don't know why those two series took up so much mindshare when there's so much else on offer - old and new - but it's probably to do with crabs.

No Fear Music Video of the Day

Disclaimer: You can't always get what you want, because crabs.
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