On "Fraidycat", and the pleasures of non-algorithmic tools for following stuff online

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2020/12/18/on-fraidycat-and-the-pleasures-of-non-algorithmic-tools-for-following-stuff-online.html

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is it an app, a website? i go there and all i see is an embedded youtube video

maybe my browser isn’t letting it do what it needs to do

This chimes with something I have thought (and posted) before. The problem with ad-supported (i.e. all) media is that, even if you block the ads themselves, the overall structure inevitably tends towards that of a single, endless ad break. Content is created in ad-sized chunks, each consuming a calibrated dose of attention, and delivered at a steady, hypnotic rhythm, so that ads can be inserted without quite driving you to change the channel or click away.

There is long-form content on the internet, and content posted at long irregular intervals, but you have to seek it out – it can’t directly appear on any of the channels we use to discover new information, because they’re all structured around that ad-break tempo; if they weren’t, they’d be locked out of ad revenue and therefore wouldn’t exist.

Old-school magazines had something of the same problem, but at least you had to buy the whole thing at once (rather than a page at a time), so there was some scope for editors to foreground longer or more pensive pieces.

I think there might be a market for something like a feed reader with a substantial ecosystem of human editors; but I think it would have to be paid-for, and there’s a chicken-and-egg problem because it would need to take off before anyone was willing to make content that wasn’t optimised for Facebook et al.

(By “editors” I don’t just mean a crowdsourced thumbs up/down system; I mean people actually getting paid to seek out or commission stuff)


Huh – do you not see the download section on the front page, this yellow part? Lower on the left side.

That’s where you download either the browser extension or the standalone app …

Screen Shot 2020-12-18 at 10.36.54 AM|690x372

Content is created in ad-sized chunks, each consuming a calibrated dose of attention, and delivered at a steady, hypnotic rhythm, so that ads can be inserted without quite driving you to change the channel or click away.

Oooooo excellent point!

oooh may be a font issue - i can select those but I dont see any text on the screen

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The HTML is pretty simple so I think the css file is doing something my computer doesn’t like. Could be I don’t have Signika or its corrupted so I don’t see anything

Aha, yeah, it sounds like the css might be breaking things

yeah it was the Signika font, for some reason it doesn’t show on my system. I removed it and now it replaced with a font I can see :slight_smile:

For a while there I thought Fraidy Cat was using some very minimalist website design.


Heh heh yes. css attributes set to :hidden for all text

I think this is a good place to discuss what a “breakup” of facebook, or twitter would even look like. A lot of people seem to think that something like a large “social” media empire can be broken up like a Robber Baron’s empire of the early twentieth century. It’s absurd. These things need to be functionally broken up. Facebook broke Web 2.0. But it wasn’t its size or influence, alone, that did the job. It was its integration of functions. The expectation among early 'bloggers, website designers, RSS enthusiasts, and “Web 2.0” advocates was that the emerging www would consist of people hosting their own data; running ads (if at all) on their own terms; and doing authorization through a single, secure protocol that was open source and agreed upon by all.

Facebook integrated everything and walled it off. For quite a while, you could access at least the Public portions of individual’s facebook streams via RSS. And facebook was a reluctant, but significant citizen in this enterprise. They soon walled it off. And they make reluctant outreach to various alternate schemes for readers, “algorithms”, content generators, etc… But everyone knows you either become a vassal of facebook or they destroy you (and take your idea if it’s a good one).

Social Media needs to be functionally broken up.


and not just rss but also chat. facebook started with some interoperability on chat ( if memory serves ) and now you can’t chat on mobile at all without their app.

instagram’s chat and facebook’s, etc. all used to be separate - and now they’re all merging. all with deep spying into who you’re talking to, how frequently, and what about.

breaking facebook up would force them toward interoperability. it’s just not clear to me if it would be profitable if they’re not able to consolidate all your personal info for advertising. the ad pie is only valuable as a whole, not in pieces

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