Pluralistic: 19 Feb 2022

Today's links

An old two dollar bill; the portrait of Jefferson has been replaced with a birthday cake with two candles.

Pluralistic is two (permalink)

Today is the second anniversary of the founding of Pluralistic, my multiplatform, non-metrics-driven, solo blog, founded in some haste after my unplanned (but overdue and amicable) departure from Boing Boing.

For two years, I've been putting out a new edition nearly every day (550 posts, or 75%). Each edition has one or more posts, and many of the editions have consisted of one or two long essays.

In some ways, Pluralistic's long form essays are the dividends for the 20+ years I've been a daily blogger. All those short pieces I've written over the preceding decades are available for me to search and reference in longer, synthetic pieces. The database isn't solely digital: every time I blog something, the act of writing it up for strangers helps me remember it and bring it to mind later. I call it "The Memex Method."

I also run a daily "This Day in History" feature in which I revisit my blogging from one year, five years, ten years, fifteen years and twenty years ago. This is an invaluable tool for understanding the evolution of my own thinking and the long-run changes in the causes I care about:

The "pluralistic" in my Pluralistic strategy is twofold. First, I practice "POSSE" (Post Own Site, Share Everywhere). That is, while my posts appear as threads on Twitter and Mastodon, and as articles on Medium and Tumblr, the permalinks for each post live on my own site, which I control.

That is a lot of work, because the platforms firmly resist it. Platforms want to enclose our work. They don't want to be our distributors, they want to be our publishers, with the power to control our audience's access to us, and our access to our audience.

When I started Pluralistic, I did all the cross-posting by hand. It was an absurdly complex process, and I made gross errors every day. Thankfully, a reader named Loren Kohnfelder volunteered to make me some Python scripts that automate vast swathes of that work away:

(Loren is a cryptography pioneer:

and he's just published an outstanding book "Designing Secure Software: A Guide for Developers")

Without Loren's scripts, I wouldn't have been able to keep up the pace. Automation's benefits can't be overstated. I also benefited greatly from @MitchWagner's suggestion of, a Twitter thread-composition tool. It's pretty janky, to be honest, but so much better than Twitter's own threading tools.

An old Ace Double paperback whose cover has been altered; it now has a fragment of an antique woodcut of Ned Ludd leading workers to battle, and has been retitled 'The Luddites' with the slug 'Smashing looms was their tactic, not their goal.'

I've plowed the extra time that automation bought me into making Pluralistic better. I added another distribution channel (@medium), and I upped my illustration game, practicing diligently with The Gimp to turn public domain and CC sources into images. I'm especially proud of this "Luddite" illo:

I've also put more energy into metadata, including alt text for those illos. Good metadata isn't just a matter of accessibility, it's also key to avoiding getting slaughtered by predatory "copyleft trolls."

One thing I haven't added is any kind of measurement tools. Neither the website, nor its RSS feed, nor my newsletter, gather any statistics. I have no idea how many people are reading any of these, nor which articles "perform" better. The metric I focus on is feedback: what readers say and write about the pieces I write. I'm far more interested in the thick, qualitative accounts of the impact of my work than the dubious quantitative residue that remains when you use a stats package to incinerate the waste product of your readership:

But the sad reality is that anyone publishing on the web is dependent on those algorithmic, quantitative platforms that have captured so much of online life, creating what @tveastman called "a group of five websites, each consisting of screenshots of text from the other four."

Even email (aka "The last open platform") is effectively captured by a cartel that prevents a significant portion of my newsletter subscribers from receiving the daily editions they explicitly (double-)opted-in for.

That's the other half of "pluralistic" – not just a diversity of publication platforms, but advocacy for diversity in our online and offline lives, freed from unaccountable, self-interested monopolistic control.

That's turned into the focus of much of my activism and writing, both personally and on behalf of @EFF:

My EFF career is almost as old as my blogging career. My 20th EFFaversary just went by, on Jan 24. What's more, my EFF career has largely consisted of figuring out how to use blogging to fight digital dystopia:

Not surprisingly, monopolism and digital life were featured in very first edition of Pluralistic, two years ago today:

In the two years since, that antimonopolistic view has become more widespread, with exciting stuff happening in the EU, the USA, the UK, and even China. It's a good time to be pluralistic. Thanks to everyone who's on this journey with me, for your feedback, your criticism, and your solidarity. Here's to another 20 years!

This day in history (permalink)

#20yrsago Supremes to hear Eldred, a copyright reform case

#15yrsago Evoting researchers buy used “secure” voting machines for $82

#15yrsago America’s superstar cities – is NYC becoming a trustafarian resort-town?

#10yrsago Canada’s spy-bill minister has no idea what is in his own law

#1yrago Uber loses court battle, steals wages, censors whistleblower

#1yrago How Republicans froze Texas solid

#1yrago Complicity, incompetence, leadership and Capitol Police

#1yrago My talks with Edward Snowden and William Gibson

Colophon (permalink)

Today's top sources:

Currently writing:

  • Picks and Shovels, a Martin Hench noir thriller about the heroic era of the PC. Friday's progress: 500 words (64956 words total).

  • Vigilant, Little Brother short story about remote invigilation. Friday's progress: 281 words (1618 words total)

  • A Little Brother short story about DIY insulin PLANNING

  • Moral Hazard, a short story for MIT Tech Review's 12 Tomorrows. FIRST DRAFT COMPLETE, ACCEPTED FOR PUBLICATION

  • Spill, a Little Brother short story about pipeline protests. FINAL DRAFT COMPLETE

  • A post-GND utopian novel, "The Lost Cause." FINISHED

  • A cyberpunk noir thriller novel, "Red Team Blues." FINISHED

Currently reading: Analogia by George Dyson.

Latest podcast: The Internet Heist (Part II)
Upcoming appearances:

Recent appearances:

Latest book:

Upcoming books:

  • Chokepoint Capitalism: How to Beat Big Tech, Tame Big Content, and Get Artists Paid, with Rebecca Giblin, nonfiction/business/politics, Beacon Press, September 2022

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"When life gives you SARS, you make sarsaparilla" -Joey "Accordion Guy" DeVilla