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Pop Loser No. 109


Pop Loser

June 8 · Issue #109 · View online

A newsletter of innumerable confusions and a profound feeling of despair collected and written by @poploser.

Missed last week due to sick. Missing an intro this week because I have nothing interesting to say about anything the world is on fire I can’t even anymore
Sorry. I’m very tired and looking forward to the weekend. 

Here we go again. Facebook is eating shit because the New York Times found out they are sharing a lot of data with device makers like Apple. “Facebook allowed the device companies access to the data of users’ friends without their explicit consent, even after declaring that it would no longer share such information with outsiders. Some device makers could retrieve personal information even from users’ friends who believed they had barred any sharing, The New York Times found.” 
I’m not sure we should be surprised or even mad. I mean, of course this is happening. I think the big takeaway continues to be that we really have no concept of what our data are, are worth and are being used for.
Also: Facebook’s trending topics feature is dead. “What followed was, as Wired called it, Facebook’s two years of hell, as the company reckoned with fake news, abuse of its platform, and increasingly loud conservative voices crying foul. For Trending Topics, this reckoning first meant losing its human oversight — Facebook laid off all the contracted “news curators” a couple of months after the first Gizmodo story. Its ultimate shutdown this week has been a long time coming.”
Related but not really: The new-connection-on-Messenger alert is the worst feature on Facebook. “This is very annoying if you’re looking at Facebook on your desktop web browser, and a notification pops up in the Messenger window. But it’s even worse on your phone, because you get a red dot notification on a whole other app (which CEO Mark Zuckerberg had hoped would be “a better experience” when he separated it from the Facebook app). And if you have an Apple Watch that buzzes on your wrist when you get a Messenger message, this sucks dog dick (this is a tech term, don’t worry about it).”
Finally (and counter-intuitively): Actually, you should send Facebook your naked photos. “The problem isn’t that Facebook is trying to accumulate your nudes. The problem is that Facebook has launched a somewhat complex technical solution to a nuanced problem at a time when user trust has been eroded by data mishandling scandals. The thinking goes: If Facebook can’t resist sharing your data and your friends’ data with everyone from Cambridge Analytica to device manufacturers like Samsung, then how can it be trusted to keep your intimate images safe?”
Eat my ass, Elon. Twitter has created a new monster: famous people with a lot of influence and a lot of terrible ideas. “With 21 million followers, Musk has emerged as one of the defining Twitter voices of 2018, someone who will happily and democratically engage with anybody who @s him. Like other gazillionaires before him—Rupert Murdoch, Marc Andreessen—he’s found in Twitter a fun and unfiltered platform for self-expression. Unlike Murdoch and Andreessen, however, he’s still at it. And he needs to be stopped.”
Dear @abby. Teens are going to Instagram for self-help via something called “threads.” I don’t know what those are, but brands will find out soon and this will all end terribly. “Webb says that making the threads is easy. She gets topic inspiration from her community, or things she’s struggled with in the past. “I’ve had people DM me, ‘How do I make friends? How do I have my first kiss?’” she says. She and other thread-account admins say that they’re often the first person their young followers will come to for advice, and that they can spend hours a day fielding messages from teens requesting threaded solutions to their problems. Webb researches solutions by watching YouTube videos, then condenses that knowledge down into short chunks of information that she bullets into threads. She says that there’s a lot of misinformation on Google and she has found that trusted makeup and fitness YouTubers provide better tips.” Dear god.
Also: Instagram killed lifestyle blogging. “In internet terms, it’s a shift that is both subtle and seismic. As influencers become a larger and larger force in consumer culture, their fans and followers now interact with them almost exclusively via big social media platforms—namely Instagram—and this often involves sponsorships. While blogs were once a safe and intimate space to overshare one’s quirks and passions with like-minded people, Instagram’s commercialization is a more carefully-curated, professionalized version of that model. It’s not "this person is just like me!” but more “this person is so much better than me.”“
Saving us from ourselves. Are the controls in iOS 12 an admission that our phones are really pretty bad for us? “The next version of iOS will also now have built in time limit controls, so that users can parent themselves about how much time they spend on Instagram or on Facebook, cutting in to the Explore Tab k-hole after an hour or two and letting them know it’s “time to move on.” It’s thrilling that Apple can tell how close everyone is to just throwing their smartphones into the ocean and returning to nature.”
Andrew Cunningham
FUN FACT: the $10k gold Apple Watch Edition that came out three years ago won’t get new software updates starting this fall
Leave a message. Phone culture has changed. We don’t even want to pick up anymore. “This became a kind of cultural commons that people could draw on to understand communicating through a technology. When you called someone, if the person was there, they would pick up, they would say hello. If someone called you, if you were there, you would pick up, you would say hello. That was just how phones worked. The expectation of pickup was what made phones a synchronous medium.”
Git'er done. Microsoft is buying GitHub for a metric fuckton of money, which is a really smart thing for them to do. “San Francisco-based GitHub is an essential tool for coders. Many corporations, including Microsoft and Alphabet Inc.’s Google, use it to store their corporate code and to collaborate. It’s also a social network of sorts for developers. Still, GitHub’s losses have been significant—it lost $66 million over three quarters in 2016—and it has been hunting for a new CEO for nine months.”
Some more: “Sure, any acquisition is risky. But GitHub isn’t just another programming tool. It’s the heart of the open-source community, sort of a cross between a social network and project management tool. It’s by far the largest site of its type, having already bested competing offerings from Microsoft and Google. It hosts open-source software projects from countless companies and organizations, including Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Google, Walmart, and the US government. According to Microsoft, GitHub has 28 million users and hosts 85 million codebases. It also hosts proprietary code and internal communications for many companies that pay to use its private hosting service.”
But, shockingly, not everyone is thrilled. “Rumors of the acquisition first began circulating over the weekend, which led to a mass migration of Github projects to its competitor’s platform, GitLab. A real-time tracker on GitLab shows a massive spike in imported Github projects early on Monday morning, with over 13,000 projects being imported within a single hour. Yet GitLab’s CEO and co-founder Sid Sijbrandij said the mass migration has been going on for nearly a week.”
And there are still some questions. “GitHub also houses the code that allows people to create deepfakes, nonconsensual porn videos that use artificial intelligence to transpose one person’s face onto another’s body. First reported by Motherboard, deepfakes have since been banned by nearly every major social network. But the code used to create them still lives on GitHub, presenting a potential ethical issue for Microsoft.”
Anyway. I still think it’s a smart move and I’m a bit surprised it took this long for one of the majors to pull this off. 
Welcome to dystopia. If you’ve ever given your DNA to an ancestry site, the police probably do or will soon have access to it. This is fine. “Curtis Rogers, who runs GEDmatch, says a number of users did remove their profiles or make them private following the Golden State Killer news. But in the weeks since, the site has experienced a serious uptick in uploads, with emails flooding in about how people want to donate their DNA to help catch dangerous criminals. Today the database is back to around a million users, according to Rogers.” If science fiction has taught us anything, it’s that a database of everyone’s genetic material is never a bad idea.
Hitchhiking to the final frontier. What happens when a startup throws up a bunch of satellites without permission? “Space may be the final frontier, but it’s by no means a lawless one. Space is a largely peaceful area because nations have agreed, whether in treaties or through unspoken norms, to play by a shared set of rules. Transparency is paramount, even in some cases of military or national-security missions. For a private company to launch satellites into low-Earth orbit without approval from its government flouts the framework that makes an extremely dangerous environment a fairly safe place to be.”
The rare rare thing online is no longer rare. Private collectors were hoarding code from some obscure Japanese games thought lost. Now they are out there, instantly destroying their rarity. Digital preservation is fascinating. “Labyrinthe, alongside other rare titles including Cookie’s Bustle, Yellow Brick Road and Link Devicer 2074 were in a folder called “DO NOT UPLOAD.” Members of the private forum hesitated to upload Labyrinthe in the fear that the private collector would take down the folder and leave the collection out of reach once again. This hesitation demonstrates the often tense relationship between game preservationists and private collectors.”
Worth revisiting: Twitter-friend Rex’s thingy on digital rarities. “Rare is such an quizzical descriptor, a blatant contradiction of the very nature of digital culture. Rarity describes a state of scarcity, and as we enter a proto-post-scarcity economy, digital stuff defies such shortages. Things are no longer rare; they are either popular or unpopular.”
The lost art of fucking off. It’s become really hard to just waste time on the Internet, which was once the thing the Internet was the very best at. “What I really wanted to do was waste some time. But … I didn’t know how. I did not know what to type into the address bar of my browser. I stared at the cursor. Eventually, I typed “” and hit enter. Like a freaking dad. The entire world of the internet, one that used to boast so many ways to waste time, and here I was, reading the news. It was even worse than working.”
Robots are dumb. Forget the Turing Test—good AI should pass the F. Scott Fitzgerald Test. “Fitzgerald’s point is not that he needs a better model of the world, but that he needs many models and the freedom to switch among them. This is what allows us to forge ahead despite unexpected obstacles, conflicting priorities, or, in Fitzgerald’s case, hitting his forties and feeling like someone changed the rules of the game while he wasn’t looking. Fitzgerald, having lost his ability to balance opposing ideas, falls into a drab, routinized existence. Every moment, from his morning routine to dinner with friends, becomes a forced act. He mimics the life of a successful literary man without actually living it.”
Netflix wins. Netflix is now the most valuable media company in the world. (Also the new season of Orange is the New Black starts next month and oh boy do I love me some OITNB.) “An 11-year-old app that charges $11 a month is worth more to investors than the legacy conglomerates that earn billions more from TV advertising, box-office hits and cable and internet packages. In fact, Netflix leapfrogged at least one traditional media giant in market value each year since 2015, when it became twice the size of Sumner Redstone’s CBS Corp. Almost symbolically, that was the same year the elderly media magnate stopped participating in CBS’s earnings calls, and spectators would soon suggest the company should buy back Viacom Inc. to reestablish its scale. And now, Netflix—a DVD-rental-turned-online-streaming service—has unseated the final holdout, Walt Disney Co.”
Also: Can Netflix bring back one of my favourite film genres, the high school movie? “Though Netflix’s original movies have been a bit of a turkey shoot in terms of quality, the teen movies released on the service are comparable to their wide release contemporaries. Dude feels like a corollary to the teen half of Blockers, while Alex Strangelove comes off as a spiritual sibling to Love, Simon (which is itself remarkably rare as a recent teen movie that has proven to be a box office hit). They’re also breaking the kind of ground that’s rarely trod on the big screen.”
Don’t Eat Before Reading This Don’t Eat Before Reading This
Kate Spade, Whose Handbags Carried Women Into Adulthood, Is Dead at 55
Skin in the Game
How Anna Delvey Tricked New York’s Party People
The Curious Case of Bryan Colangelo and the Secret Twitter Account
The ‘Sex Cult’ That Preached Empowerment
Eugenics Today: Where Eugenic Sterilisation Continues Now
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