Tom MacWright

tom@macwright.org

Recently

I wrote a thing about the web, which ‘got people talking.’ I guess there are some notes now.

Alex Russell disagreed with the problem statement and pointed to this talk which raises a pretty good point: the mobile web is the most important part of the web, growth-wise, and it is in danger. Enhancing mobile web apps through Project Fugu and other PWA systems is the way forward. It’s a pretty compelling point. The ability for millions of people to use the web is more important than our need to have a creative little niche.

One person – a former Mozilla distinguished engineer – had a post lined up already which argues against, which is split between generalized pessimism (change isn’t possible, people won’t do it) and technical pessimism (static documents won’t be a performance win). The generalized pessimism cuts to the core of collaborative standards versus democratic or ground-up standards: we see new standards with quick adoption and total consensus emerge all the time, just that they’re always led by enormous tech companies. It’s only impossible to start a new standard and convince everyone to use it if you can’t force them to.

Finally, technology reflects our biases and assumptions. My opinions certainly do. A web that was better for text communication, for example. When I started using computers in the late 90s, the web was pseudonymous and text-heavy. Video was rare. We knew some websites were popular, but the only thing to confirm it was a little “hit counter” that could be, for all we knew, fake. Any vision of the web will have different priorities: if I was a business-economics person, it would have to include payments. The current view of “social media” would be an intensely personal video & photo sharing site with minimal text. The security-minded web would be just like NoScript everywhere.

A web that advantages text and allows pseudonymity feels right to me partially because of history and partly because it would work for me, and partially because some visions of the internet (especially those that look like Instagram) feel very wrong.

Reading

I finished reading Capital, and wrote a review of it and a few notes. I took quite a lot of notes on this book. I’m thinking about writing quick explanations of its points, like I’ve done with the executive pay question.

I had some articles queued up but the only one I’ll link to is umair haque’s “We Don’t Know How to Warn You Any Harder. America is Dying.” It’s one-note, an article for a one-note year of decline, terror, and disappointment. There’s little space for originality or hope in this kind of article anymore. Humor is no longer appropriate. I’m going to keep doing rituals, probably ineffective, like mailing people to encourage them to vote. But I and a lot of folks I talk to feel like we’re pretty far from controls: we’ve clustered in Democratic strongholds. The votes that matter are held by ‘swing voters’ with stochastic opinions.

I know: Biden isn’t ideal. But as I’ve said before, we’re not picking favorites. Have your reservations about him, express them, and then vote for him, and continue to push him to do better.

A quick break

I’m going to take a break from Twitter this month. Tweeting isn’t hurting my mental health, I’m not getting bullied off the platform, and I’ll be back in October. Approaching a year of quarantine, my country’s slide into fascism, and my inability to travel more than 5 miles from my apartment, what I am trying to recover most is differentiated time. Some days should be different than others. I’ll replace Twitter with something else for a little while, and hopefully that’ll seem different.

September 1, 2020  @tmcw