Web Excursions 2021-10-13

How Slack Upended the Workplace - The Atlantic

  • But even if you don’t use Slack, or something like it, you live and work in the world Slack helped create.

    • It’s a world where openness and transparency are prized;

    • where work is something we are always kind of doing;

    • where who we are at the office and who we are outside it are closer than ever before;

    • where all of these dynamics mean that sometimes things go very wrong, especially for people in power.

  • In 2012, Butterfield [Slack’s founder] and some friends were working on a video game, Glitch,

    • that never really took off.

    • But the team had become so enamored of the chat platform they’d built in the process

    • that they decided to spin it off into the company that would become Slack.

  • Part of the appeal was the way the software felt.

    • The company’s name was a wink, a self-aware joke, a sensibility:

      • a hint at the kind of casual, effortless culture the companies

      • that adopted it early seemed to be hoping to cultivate.

    • The product itself was bubbly and bouncy, with a kindercore color scheme and a little cartoon robot that showed you the ropes.

    • New messages announced themselves with a swoosh-tap-tap-tap that was inspired by jazz percussion and is, as the sound designer Josh Mobley told me when I called to ask about it, “Pavlovian,” “iconic,” and “very clever.”

    • The interface supported GIFs and emoji and offered upbeat, cutesy messages as it booted up.

  • workers installed Slack’s free, low-feature version on their work-issued laptops and started chatting,

    • until eventually they converted enough people

    • that leadership had no choice but to pay for a professional license.

    • Soon enough, and without advertising at all, Slack was a perk, if not a shibboleth,

      • for a certain kind of employee and a certain kind of company.

  • This is great for Slack, and also a little ridiculous:

    • Enterprise software is meant to blend in,

      • silently and only semi-effectively wringing more productivity out of us before we can call it a day.

    • It is not supposed to create zealous brand loyalists.

    • But Slack so thoroughly permeates companies’ culture that it changes them.

    • It changes the language of the office and the texture of the workday.

    • It enables a sui generis kind of communication, one that’s chatty, fast, stream-of-consciousness, and always on; one that often feels less like an email than a group text.

    • It is work software that insinuated itself into our lives precisely by feeling unlike work software—

      • and, in turn, it has made work feel less like work.

  • Thanks to Slack I could spend hours sitting in an office, on a work-issued laptop, chatting away on work-sanctioned productivity software and not get a single thing done.

    • This is what the writer John Herrman has called “a novel form of work-like non-work,”

    • with all the superficial trappings of labor—thinking, typing—but very few actual results.

  • In her memoir, Uncanny Valley, Anna Wiener, a former tech-start-up employee, recalled that

    • at one company she worked for, employees had set up Slack

    • so that whenever someone typed “/giphy metronome” into the chat box of an all-company channel,

    • an animated GIF of a swinging penis would appear.

  • On Slack, everyone has the same size megaphone, regardless of hierarchy or chain of command.

    • And between the jokes and the special channels and the spontaneity and the freewheeling way of talking to your colleagues—who are also kind of your friends—

    • it encourages a type of personal expression that is new to the American workplace.

  • Slack “forces companies to be more transparent, forces companies to be more thoughtful about policies;

    • it forces them to think about how these things will be interpreted. But these are all things that a good company should be thinking about anyway …

    • And yes, that makes running the company harder. But it’s not a bad thing.”


Facebook Political Problems by stratechery.com

  • What I did want to do is [to] write a post about Facebook’s political problems, as I perceive them, in their entirety.

  • future looks more like a rain-forest,

    • with platforms that span the globe and millions of niche businesses that sit on top.

  • The challenge in a worldwide market, though,

    • is finding the customers who are interesting in the niche being filled;

    • this is where Facebook’s ad offering is very much a platform in its own right.

  • Facebook’s platform, unlike many of its competitors, is entirely automated and auction-driven

  • Facebook is also very adept at simplifying the process (in exchange for more margin, of course)

  • Perceived Problem One: Privacy

    • the nature of computers and the Internet is the spewing of data everywhere, and it is only in aggregate, in a data factory, than any insight from this collection of vectors can be derived, and only then in the context of a larger application like targeted advertising conducted at massive scale.

    • To my mind, the reality of data on Facebook is well worth the trade-off for the value Facebook’s advertising delivers to niche-focused businesses. Moreover, I feel much better about Facebook as a data mediator than about modular advertising stacks where data really is bought and sold.

  • Perceived Problem Two: Competition

    • The societal value of Aggregators is lower than Platforms, but the extent to which they can inflict harm is more limited as well — competition really is just a click away.

    • Facebook’s challenge is in continuing to keep users opening and using its apps, and there is plenty of evidence the company is struggling to do just that.

  • Political Problem One: Facebook’s Competence

    • The ugly truth is that we believe in connecting people so deeply that anything that allows us to connect more people more often is de facto good. It is perhaps the only area where the metrics do tell the true story as far as we are concerned.

    • As Bosworth notes, though, Facebook’s growth isn’t just about competence, but about a single-minded determination to do everything possible to make Facebook synonymous with the Internet.

    • the reality is that Facebook did win, and just because some of its spoils are rotten doesn’t absolve the company of responsibility. If you are going to onboard all of humanity, you are going to get all of humanity’s problems.

    • the Internet causes real problems, and Facebook willingly made itself responsible for those problems, with no real understanding that the problems even existed.

  • Political Problem Two: Facebook’s Scapegoating

    • entities made peace (and avoided introspection) by making Facebook the scapegoat for Trump’s election.

  • Political Problem Three: Facebook’s Power

    • “Social infrastructure for community” may not be government in the Westphalian sense, but at Facebook scale it is something far more powerful; at the same time, given that Facebook doesn’t have guns, it was inevitable that an all-out effort would be made to capture it.

  • The more that U.S. tech companies are consumed by U.S. politics the more motivation there will be to pull the future forward.


Revealed: Facebook’s Secret Blacklist of “Dangerous Individuals and Organizations”

  • The list, the foundation of Facebook’s Dangerous Individuals and Organizations policy,

    • is in many ways what the company has described in the past:

    • a collection of groups and leaders who have threatened or engaged in bloodshed.

  • The snapshot reviewed by The Intercept is separated into the categories

    • Hate,

    • Crime,

    • Terrorism,

    • Militarized Social Movements, and

    • Violent Non-State Actors.

  • These categories were organized into a system of three tiers

    • under rules rolled out by Facebook in late June,

    • with each tier corresponding to speech restrictions of varying severity.

  • But while labels like “terrorist” and “criminal” are conceptually broad,

    • they look more like narrow racial and religious proxies

    • once you see how they are applied to people and groups in the list, experts said,

    • raising the likelihood that Facebook is placing discriminatory limitations on speech.

  • The tiers determine what other Facebook users are allowed to say about the banned entities.

    • Regardless of tier, no one on the DIO list is allowed to

      • maintain a presence on Facebook platforms,

      • nor are users allowed to represent themselves as members of any listed groups.

  • The tiers determine instead what other Facebook users are allowed to say about the banned entities.

    • Tier 1 is the most strictly limited;

      • users may not express anything deemed to be praise or support about groups and people in this tier,

      • even for nonviolent activities (as determined by Facebook).

      • Tier 1 includes alleged terror, hate, and criminal groups and alleged members,

        • with terror defined as “organizing or advocating for violence against civilians” and

        • hate as “repeatedly dehumanizing or advocating for harm against” people with protected characteristics.

        • Tier 1’s criminal category is almost entirely American street gangs and Latin American drug cartels, predominantly Black and Latino.

        • Facebook’s terrorist category, which is 70 percent of Tier 1, overwhelmingly consists of Middle Eastern and South Asian organizations and individuals —

          • who are disproportionately represented throughout the DIO list, across all tiers, where close to 80 percent of individuals listed are labeled terrorists.

  • “The designations seem to be based on American interests,” which “does not represent the political reality in those countries” elsewhere in the world

  • Particularly confusing and censorious is Facebook’s definition of a “Group Supporting Violent Acts Amid Protests,”

    • a subcategory of Militarized Social Movements barred from using the company’s platforms.

    • Facebook describes such a group as “a non-state actor”

      • that engages in “representing [or] depicting … acts of street violence against civilians or law enforcement,”

      • as well as “arson, looting, or other destruction of private or public property.”

      • As written, this policy would appear to give Facebook license to apply this label to virtually any news organization covering

        • — that is to say, depicting —

        • a street protest that results in property damage,

        • or to punish any participant uploading pictures of these acts by others.

  • Facebook’s ban against violent incitement is relative, expressly permitting,

    • calls for violence against “locations no smaller than a village.”

    • For example, cited as fair game in the rules is the statement “We should invade Libya.”

    • The Facebook spokesperson, said, “The purpose of this provision is to allow debate about military strategy and war, which is a reality of the world we live in,”

    • and acknowledged that it would allow for calls of violence against a country, city, or terrorist group, giving as an example of a permitted post under the last category a statement targeting an individual: “We should kill Osama bin Laden.”


Android Mobile OS Snooping By Samsung, Xiaomi, Huawei and Realme Handsets

We present an in-depth analysis of the data sent by the Samsung, Xiaomi, Huawei, Realme, LineageOS and /e/OS variants of Android. We find that, with the notable exception of e/OS, even when minimally configured and the handset is idle these vendor-customized Android variants transmit substantial amounts of information to the OS developer and also to third-parties (Google, Microsoft, LinkedIn, Facebook etc) that have pre-installed system apps. While occasional communication with OS servers is to be expected, the observed data transmission goes well beyond this and raises a number of privacy concerns.

comments

doc_gunthrop:

  • A distinction needs to be made clear here with regards to the data being transmitted to Google by LineageOS in this study.

  • It's not the OS that is transmitting the data over to Google, but rather OpenGapps (ie. Google Play).

  • In addition, there exists an alternative to OpenGapps called MicroG. This is like Google Play but allows users the option to anonymize themselves.

salusinarduis:

  • I use GraphineOS and LineageOS without Google Play Services. They are great and are suitable replacements for Apple and Google.

    • Osmand(FOSS) for maps (supports being fully offline!)

    • Signal and Discord for messaging (Discord is sandboxed)

    • Newpipe(FOSS) for Youtube

    • F-droid(FOSS) for my FOSS appstore

    • APKmirror for the few non-free apps I need

    • Libretorrent(FOSS) and VLC(FOSS) for watching movies

    • Firefox(FOSS) and Vanadium(FOSS) for browser

    • K9 Mail(FOSS) for email

    • Infinity(FOSS) for Reddit

    • Secur(FOSS) for 2FA

    • Taskkeeper(FOSS) for reminders

  • Almost everything you need is in the F-droid FOSS app repository.

  • The only limitation is push notifications, which isn't a problem because FOSS apps like Signal bundle their own notification system that does not use Google Play Services. Discord however, does not get push notifications (which I wouldn't want anyway)