Week 45

November 2022


A quick overview of this week’s content
  • The Week that Was: social media herd mentality, drone swarm advertising, and design wars: the pantone menace
  • Rules of Engagement: twitter’s issues explained, crypto centralisation, and the weird joys of digital toys 
  • Serendipity Preview: lego prosthetics, toad licking, ready killer one, and more!


Mastodon was up until now, a relatively niche decentralised social media platform. It is currently in the spotlight as a potential replacement for twitter users desperate to fly the coop. Whether mastodon can actually replace twitter or not is actually very complicated, and reliant on a lot of variables. Both birds, and the prehistoric elephant mastodon is based on, are powerfully social animals, they operate in large groups called herds (elephants) and flocks (birds). This is clever branding to highlight the social nature of these platforms. However, an increasing body of scientific research is drawing more direct connections between the mastodon herd, the twitter flock, and their real-world animal counterparts. LINK


This week a long research project was released about the degree of automation in Washington DC’s local government. It happened to coincide with a PR stunt using a large swarm of drones. The drones, having received special permission to do so, flew over New Jersey. The ad they displayed by flying in formation was visible up to 1.6km away thanks to their powerful lighting. Coverage of the drone ad in New Jersey mentions citizens being incredibly annoyed at their forced engagement and powerless to stop it. Meanwhile, in the UK, Instagram removed a rap video referencing gang violence at the request of the police. All three cases highlight a difficult legal grey area, namely how tightly big tech can be integrated into both local and national governments with little insight or control afforded to citizens. LINK


Pantone is a company that holds patents on many extremely popular colour codes. Pantone and Adobe are currently in a licensing conflict at the expense of users. Adobe and rivals are all working on fully integrating AI Image generators into their products. You can already use these image generators as plugins for Adobe products today. The Pantone controversy raises some very interesting questions in this regard. AI training continues to be highly controversial and difficult to regulate. I couldn’t help but wonder what might happen in the future if AI image generators use pantone colours in their training data or output, would it be enforceable to remove them or as hard as purging faces from databases like Clearview AI’s? LINK


Let’s cut through a whole lot of noise. Here are the core issues of the twitter saga thus far. First off, policy makers have concerns about where Musk’s money came from. Saudi Arabian royalty, for example, is one of the financiers of the takeover. Next up we have the verification discussion. The blue tick you see on some twitter handles used to mean that twitter’s team had directly verified that the person behind this account is who they say they are. Experts have always been divided on the reliability of this process; they are less divided about ditching it being a bad idea. Twitter’s present answer to this issue is a grey mark and ‘verified’ text on verified profiles. Finally, there’s the infrastructure. Musk fired half of the 7500 employees, hastily hired some back shortly after, and a (former?) twitter engineer explains the upcoming consequences of that decision in the main linked article of this item. LINK


A core part of the cryptocurrency dream has always been decentralisation, meaning that no one entity or person could gain a stranglehold over it. The centralised nature of the traditional finance sector has likewise long been a thing crypto enthusiasts hate about it. Unfortunately for them, it appears that more centralisation is happening in crypto this week. Of the two dominant crypto trading platforms left standing after the crash, most of FTX is now apparently being bought by Binance. Meanwhile OpenSea, the market leader in the NFT space, is now implementing a system that will effectively lock NFT’s sold on OpenSea to its platform. Some researchers in the space claim that OpenSea admins might benefit from this quite a bit. LINK


I had an interesting conversation last week with some newsletter readers reacting to my virtual reality (VR) quest through liminal space. We talked briefly about barriers to entry, such as how expensive VR is. The conversation gradually shifted to cover the fact that many of the more successful VR games aren’t afraid to get weird. It turned into a broader conversation about playfulness. This, in turn, reminded me of the way that the news media have been experimenting with new ways to engage people. Two recent news games were notably for the impact they managed to have on those that tried them. These games weren’t actually VR, but they did touch on the same topic of what I’ll call ‘weirdness as a feature’ to engage their players. LINK

Live Wires LINK 
Internet Chokepoint LINK
Bellingcat TikTok LINK
Lego Prosthetics LINK
Garbage Carp LINK
Brand's Identity LINK
Love me Docs LINK
Ready Killer One LINK 
Toad Licking LINK  
Rat(back)pack LINK


The previous two newsletters released before and after Halloween, so I decided to try and make them a bit spooky, to include some scary articles along with more general tech events. Unfortunately for me, a lot happened in those two weeks, and the size of the newsletter ballooned quite a bit as a result. That’s why I wanted to head in the other direction this week, to try out an extra compact newsletter. Let me know if you like it. I was also asked to include some more personal anecdotes and experiences in the items themselves by readers that enjoy ‘One More Thing.’ I’ve decided to try an item like that out this week. Unrelated, but the sheer volume of twitter and Elon Musk articles I had to parse through this week was ridiculous, I was getting way too paranoid that it was just Elon all the way down when I decided to walk away from my PC to take a breather. And wouldn’t you know it? A cute little blue bird landed in our garden and stared at me through the window. My family claims to have heard me scream “oh my god Elon! Leave me alooooooone!”
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