In the court of the Dogspotting triumvirate

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Mark Zuckerberg Breaks The Dogspotting Rules

This was sent to me by my friend Ellie. Last week, Mark Zuckerberg posted in the very old and very popular Dogspotting Society Facebook Group. The group has been around since 2016. Its larger sister group, Dogspotting, is the traditional internet game loosely based on a Something Awful game, dogspotting. While Dogspotting Society is a place for sharing photos of dogs you know.

If you’ve never gone into a dogspotting community, of which there are now many, they’re intense places to be. They’re all a little different, but tend to have two consistent rules:

  • You have to post a photo of a dog

  • Points are given for the kind of picture and type of dog

While the group that Zuckerberg posted in is a bit more freeform than its sister group, it still has a bunch of strict user guidelines. And Zuckerberg’s initial post in the Dogspotting Society group broke the group’s most important rule: post a pic of a dog! And commenters were NOT happy.

Zuckerberg did eventually “pay the dog tax.” But I think the entire incident actually serves as a very interesting, albeit silly, little snapshot into the Facebook in Zuckerberg’s head versus the Facebook that actual users interact with.

Zuckerberg’s initial dogspotting post is, at first glance, not controversial at all. It wouldn’t be out of place on LinkedIn. CEOs love to “share” what they’ve “learned” and incorrectly assume everyone else would like to hear about it! In his post, he introduced himself and teased a few announcements. It was extremely Facebook 2014. A perfect little update for people to like and comment on.

Meanwhile, Dogspotting Society, a group with over a million followers, has survived the many incarnations of Facebook’s algorithmic changes over the years. They’re like Walking Dead characters ten seasons in. They’ve created a rigid moderation structure to protect their group from the chaos just outside their walls. Hilariously, Dogspotting Society’s lengthy moderation policies — for what is a group that is essentially meant to be a place to share pictures of dogs — is a fantastic living document of just how completely impossible it has been to govern a large Facebook Group over the last decade. The community currently has a “triumvirate” of moderations, a “committee of public safety,” a senate, advisors, and a scoring system that emphasizes positive engagement. It’s fiefdom of dog content populated by hardened posters and Zuckerberg didn’t even bother to read the rules before joining!

As I said, ultimately this is all sort of silly, but I always think it’s useful to look at how the people who build these sites interact with them. Whether it’s Jack Dorsey still using Twitter like it’s a public text message or Zuckerberg posting in a Dogspotting group like a very boring freshman just joining a student page. Makes you wonder what these services would look like if the people who owned them and built them experienced them the same way their users did.


How Big Is TERF Twitter?

The growing global anti-trans movement is a complicated thing to cover. For extremism and misinformation researchers, it’s easy to point to Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene and say she’s being transphobic, but I think it’s harder to cover the less traditionally conservative (on the surface) users who identify as trans-exclusionary radical feminist, or TERFs. The JK Rowling strain of transphobia, if you will. But there have been a few interesting recent developments that I think provide a really great insight into what TERF Twitter actually looks like.

First, in June, an anti-trans account called @WEPWomen got into a multi-layered Twitter argument over a Reuters piece about New Zealand weightlifter Laurel Hubbard, a trans woman, being allowed to compete at the Olympic Games.

@WEPWoman shared this screenshot which they claimed was a map of “the twitter analytics from the original Reuters tweet announcing Hubbard's selection for the Olympics.”

I haven’t been able to find the site this map was made with, so I can’t tell you how accurate it is, but the screenshot has had a big second life on sites like Tumblr and is largely considered a total self own for TERFs who accidentally proved they are a small and extremely vocal network of accounts largely coming from the UK. One user referred to the bright spot on the map above as “radioactive glow”.

A few days later, a Twitter user named @HelenGradwell did her own research into TERF engagement and came away with similar findings and put them into an extremely interesting thread. According to @HelenGradwell, who used Twitter analytics site followerwonk, the most popular anti-trans content right now is being engaged with under 1000 unique users. For instance, there are only 833 accounts with the hashtag #IStandWithJKRowling in their bios.

So why does this matter? If the modern TERF movement online is so small, what can it really accomplish? Well, unfortunately, it’s extremely insidious. I track this stuff pretty closely and even I have to use apps like Shinigami Eyes, an extension for Chrome that uses crowdsourced data to label anti-trans users. Regardless of scale, these users are very skilled at inserting their talking points in everything. And the movement’s links to outright fascism are also becoming clearer and more defined. The movement’s main strategy is to create endless euphemisms for being anti-trans, #SexNotGender, “adult human female,” “gender critical,” etc., all to hide the fact that it’s basically a bunch of British columnists and Mumsnet users. Or, put another way:


The Haunted Chocolate Blog Manhunt Tumblr Thing

Buckle up, folks, we’ve got a big weird Tumblr thing to talk about. Gather round and let me tell you the story of Hershey’s Chocolate World, a weird blog roleplaying as an official social media account for Hershey’s. There’s actually a big tradition of Tumblr users registering URLs for brands and then running those accounts in a menacing or surreal way.

Well, two years ago, a Tumblr user named emergencychange told Hershey’s Chocolate World to delete their account on July 17, 2021. Naturally, the person running the Hershey’s blog replied by threatening to hunt them down.

July 17, 2021 was on Saturday and in the days leading up, users were wondering what would happen — if anything. The owner of the Hershey’s blog and Forrest, the user behind the emergencychange account actually had a meet up! The whole thing was documented on the Hershey’s blog.

They didn’t fight, instead, a bunch of Tumblr users met and played Bleyblades outside for a while. Seems like a cool day. You can watch a video about the whole day here:

As for the Hershey’s Chocolate World, it seems like the blog has been retired. The top of the page now reads, “RIP (this was never actually run by hershey. this is just some stoner who likes beyblades and lives in pa)”.

Rest in power, Hershey’s Chocolate World.


A Really Good Tweet


One TikToker’s Quest To Make Mustard Gas In Their Toilet

This was sent to me by a reader named Johnny. It’s one of those things that is completely shocking, but, also, somehow totally predictable. It’s a TikTok account called @incometwetrust.

Every video on the account is them mixing cleaning chemicals in a toilet. After poking around this account, I have discovered that this kind of content — the mixing of brightly colored cleaning products — can be tracked across several hashtags. The first, and least unhinged is #cleantok, which is the general tag for all the cleaning content on the app. TikTok is an insatiable sorting algorithm that will eventually turn all human behavior into trending content. Then there’s the #crumbles hashtag, which is specifically for videos of powered cleaning products being mixed together. And, finally, if you’re looking for a veritable feast for your eyes, there’s #productdump, which is literally just people dumping products into a tub or toilet or sink or whatever.

I am sure all of this is fine and will not become increasingly dangerous as users try to one-up each other to gain algorithmic supremacy over each other.


Let’s Talk About Stablecoins

I haven’t talked about crypto on here for a while (I can hear all of you booing from the other side of my inbox). But there’s been some interesting stuff going on. First, Spike Lee made a Bitcoin commercial. What I think is cool about pop culture right now is that you can just put any three things together in the world of entertainment, politics, and finance, and it can be true.

Second, dogecoin co-founder Jackson Palmer resurfaced on Twitter last week and called cryptocurrency “an inherently right-wing, hyper-capitalistic technology built primarily to amplify the wealth of its proponents through a combination of tax avoidance, diminished regulatory oversight and artificially enforced scarcity.” Oof.

Palmer’s statement didn’t have much of an effect on the market because it’s actually still in the toilet following Tesla announcing they would no longer accept Bitcoin back in May and last month’s ban of Bitcoin mining in parts of China. Though there are now questions about what exactly it will take to get the market back on track. What probably won’t help is this video of thousands of illegal Bitcoin mining rigs being bulldozed in Malaysia.

Still, amid the chaos of the bear market, many traders still believe things can recover. Though, there’s also now a big regulatory war brewing over stablecoins, or crypto coins that are worth the same as an external asset. Stablecoins like Dai are tied to a fiat currency like the dollar. These allow a trader to move earnings over to another crypto currency without having to cash out of the casino, so to speak. The Fed and Paul Krugman don’t like them, crypto evangelists argue they can be used as free banking.

Lastly, Garbage Day is up on Mirror.xyz now. I’ve been following experiments in crypto crowdfunding that writers like Kyle Chayka and John Palmer have been doing with Mirror and I’m excited to try out a few ideas I’ve been kicking around. If you’re someone who’s interested in the NFT space and has a fun idea for a Garbage Day projects, hit me up!


Eve 6 Vs Spotify

If you did not know, the extremely good 90s rock band Eve 6 is on Twitter and VERY active. Quick aside: I would say hearing Eve 6’s 1998 hit “Inside Out” on the radio as an 8-year-old was the thing that first activated the pop punk gene in my brain. Anyways, recently, Eve 6 tweeted about comments made by Jim Anderson, a former Spotify executive is often thought of as the platform’s central architect. I wrote about this a few weeks ago. Anderson said previously, “Spotify was created to solve a problem. The problem was this: piracy and music distribution. The problem was to get artists’ music out there. The problem was not to pay people money.”

Well, let’s see what Eve 6 has to say about this…


Popeye Said Trans Rights

If you haven’t been following this, the verified Popeye Twitter account has been posting a lot of really great pro-trans content lately. It kicked off with this very cute tweet last week on Non-Binary People's Day. That tweet has copyrighted material in it, so I won’t be embedding it lol, but a user followed it up by asking Popeye what his pronouns were, to which the account replied with this unbelievable joke:


Watch This Old Bird Dance

I came across this thanks to Kyle Raymond Fitzpatrick’s excellent Trend Report newsletter. This bird’s name is Griffi. He’s 15 years old. He lives in a parrot rescue in Florida. And he really likes dancing.


Some Stray Links


P.S. here’s a real good Blink-182 cover for a real good cause.

***Any typos in this email are on purpose actually***