What Sonya Wrote, Summer 2018

Hello everyone! I just switched from MailChimp to an indie newsletter service called Buttondown. It is my dearest hope that everything goes smoothly and this email doesn’t get lost in your spam folder 😓

Life has been busy busy busy since I last updated you in June. Highlights:

If you want to learn way more about the Zcash Foundation’s doings, click here and here.

Outside of work:

Internet idealists talk about how freedom of information opens up opportunity for everyone. You can learn whatever you want, build whatever you want, and communicate whatever you want. For example, instead of needing thousands of dollars to self-publish a physical book and buy ads for it in a magazine, you can make an ebook for free, distribute it however you like, and promote it on social media. Compared to the previous status quo, this is a genuine improvement! The internet idealists are right: Opportunity truly is more broadly available than it used to be.

But what if Amazon bans your ebook? What if Barnes & Noble and Kobo also deem it inappropriate? The unspoken catch of the internet as democratizing force is that if you are weird enough, or aberrant enough, and you either use the wrong keyword or attract the baleful eye of the administrators, you’ll be banished. In that case, it doesn’t matter that there are fewer gatekeepers — the handful of big, flourishing gatekeepers are key, and they have shut you out.

It may be that there is another path. Disenfranchised hackers and crypto-anarchists are building parallel institutions that no one group can own or control, instead of trying to force giant tech platforms to accommodate them. They recognize that any entity that prizes advertising revenue above all else can’t be relied upon for civic neutrality.

  • Expanding on that theme, I explained how cypherpunk politics means choosing exit over voice.
  • And then expanding on that theme even more, I argued in a CoinDesk op-ed that cryptocurrencies can circumvent financial discrimination.
  • My fiancé and I went on a trip to New York City. We visited lots of friends and it was exhausting but wonderful.

I think that’s it! As usual, please reply and let me know what youuu were up to this summer!

However, I have learned from experience that if you send me a long email, I will take forever to respond. It happens because I start feeling bad that I haven’t come up with an equally involved response. Nothing personal! Sorry in advance!

💕 Sonya

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Fediverse Q&A with Patreon

I went to Patreon HQ today for work. (In case you didn’t know, I’m a tech reporter at Inc.) Beforehand, I asked the Fediverse if they had any burning questions for the Patreon team. Here are the questions — all of which you can see in the original thread if you wish — and the answers I got. No particular order, and I just copy-pasted the questions.

Would be cool if we could get them to talk about how Operation Choke Point affects their business — which things would they like to support but had to not? I’d also prolly ask about cryptocurrency plans

More on this coming soon. I forgot to ask about cryptocurrency support, though — my bad! I’m going to send Patreon staff a link to this post, so maybe they’ll get back to me about that.

how can they make patreon more friendly to open source maintainers. They put in a lot of work to maintain software that a lot of companies make millions off of. How can we maintain their genius with a for-profit set up that displays their skills?

OSS is definitely on Patreon’s radar. They have ideas in this area that are off-the-record (sorry, I know that’s annoying) but I think y’all would approve of the possibilities they’re considering.

ask ’em about smol, zero-dollar a month users
I’m not sure what exactly, but go for it anyway

This question prompted a really interesting conversation — thanks Sargoth! We talked about how low-level financial support can help a person level up their hobby. For example a YouTuber might use Patreon to buy studio lights. My personal Patreon funds my MailChimp subscription!

What did you have for lunch today is always my answer to the question of “ama” or “what should I ask?”

I visited before lunchtime, but for breakfast they had quiche, and a Patreon employee made sourdough bread as part of an internal hackathon. (I love the idea of hacking bread.) They shared some with me; it was delicious.

What breed of cat does the admin have

It’s actually a fox, not a cat! The first designer that Patreon hired, several years ago, had a thing for foxes. That led to a cute cartoon fox becoming their company emblem. From the 404 page:

Patreon 404 fox

What a cutie, right?! Patreon also recently published a blog post about their procedurally generated fox icons.

(It is possible that I misunderstood this question.)

why give 5% of $ to trump packer

I asked this person to elaborate but I still don’t understand what they’re referring to. The Patreon staff were nonplussed too.

WHY CAN WE NOT DO INDIVIDUAL PAYMENTS

I mean, I get the whole shtick of the site, but there’s times I want to give an *immediate* bump to somebody I’m patreonizing, and it’s dumb to have to go somewhere else to do that when the payment pipeline is already *right there*.

Basically, this is on the list of desired features, but it hasn’t risen to the top. Patreon has to triage what they work on first, and enabling one-time payments hasn’t made the cut for strategic reasons.

why is it so hard to delete your account?

Patreon made it hard to delete your account on purpose, because they’re worried about creators’ incomes being jeopardized in the event of a hostile account takeover (hacking, an abusive spouse, etc).

1) What happened to you hair?
2) Did you use Homer Simpson’s make up shotgun?
3) When was the last time you went to the gym?

The response to this was basically ????? and I share the Patreon staffers’ confusion.

maybe ask them how their flagging thingy works, and what they do to prevent false positives like https://youtu.be/RtvQm5_eUaY?t=87

I missed this question, for which I apologize. I will follow up with my main Patreon contact.

How can Patreon more directly fund the passion projects of creators?

Another one I missed! Again, my bad.

are they looking at implementing an group/project oriented funding models? Right now they have accounts that represent groups, or figure heads that represent entire operations – but I’d prefer something that works better for loose collectives (non formal organizations) and helps divy out money.

Yep, this is on their radar, but it’s difficult to implement — both legally and logistically. One of the staff members I spoke with mentioned that Patreon has dealt with contentious multi-person account issues before, and it’s a huge headache for everyone involved.

That’s all, thanks everybody!

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Social Cohesion via Memes

“The actual propositional content of doctrines has little to do with how religion works socially. Far more than the content of faith as such, what makes religion religion are the images and rhetoric loaded with atavistic and esoteric archetypes (chaos; order; Kek; frogs; a ‘God Emperor,’ to use a common 4chan appellation for Donald Trump) that tend to propagate virally, independent of a centralized source, because they tie into the cultural zeitgeist or answer some cultural need. […] Every time a meme is replicated or a symbol is reused, it only strengthens the socially determined bond of meaning.” — Tara Isabella Burton

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Bow Before the Adaptive, Data-Hungry Systems

“All systems of communication and control — from the human mind to an command and control network — can be subtly degraded, disabled, or subverted by feeding them false inputs or exploiting weaknesses in how they process, evaluate, and act on information. […] We sit at the threshold of an new era characterized by the ubiquity of adaptive, data-hungry systems and a corresponding society characterized more and more by the offloading of its collective memory, cognition, and reasoning to computers. [… O]ur increasingly informatized identities, culture, society, media, and politics can be easily manipulated by actors that understand how the organization of information networks determines their influence on our beliefs and behaviors.” — Adam Elkus


“Strange dueling subcultures and their own narratives, folk beliefs, superstitious techno-animism, language-games — to the extent that any kind of ‘database culture’ can be called a narrative as opposed to simply just a collection of memetic primitives — have taken control of the means (perhaps now memes) of knowledge production.” — also Adam Elkus

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Making Stuff versus Looking at Stuff

“I guess the true problem here [is] the sharp contrast between platforms for people who make stuff and platforms for people who look at stuff. (Most of us are some blend of both, of course — all the more reason that the separation sucks.) Twitter is made for looking and sharing, so it’s used by everyone but sucks for creators; something like Flickr is made for making, so it has a lot of relevant tools but isn’t very heavily frequented. The result is that work gets clumsily cross-posted all over the place, and it’s left to individual creators to come up with their own ad-hoc rituals for disseminating new work.” — Eevee

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