The NSFW content time bomb is ticking

Read to the end for the sickest video I’ve ever seen

OK, I never hype up an Extra Garbage Day this much, but last night I had an interview with Lochlan O’Neil. You may not recognize her name, but you absolutely know her work. She created Tumbl-Con, the event that would go on to become DashCon. I learned A LOT from our conversation, but, most importantly, I now know the full story of how The Ball Pit happened. If you want to check out the interview, hit the subscribe button below and you’ll get it in your inbox next Thursday. Guys, I’m serious, this interview was mind-blowing.


The Internet Filled Up With Porn

Last night, VICE broke a story that news websites like Vanity Fair, the Washington Post, and Rolling Stone were filling up with porn. Before VICE looked into it, screenshots of the NSFW articles were floating around 4chan and other online right-wing spaces. Though, it wasn’t some kind of conservative prank on journalists. Instead, what actually happened was both much more mundane and also much more complicated to deal with.

A video hosting site called VidMe let their domain expire and it was purchased by a porn site. VidMe video players are installed on countless articles on news sites all over the web. Now, those widgets are full of porn. If you aren’t familiar with the rats nest of online ad tech, I recommend following Gizmodo reporter Shoshana Wodinsky, who I consider the best expert on this whole world. But, for lack of a better word, the architecture of online advertising is a cluster fuck.

But I wasn’t totally surprised that this happened. I tweeted last week that some kind of big NSFW viral event was headed our way and I even dedicated a podcast episode to this idea last week, as well. And I don’t think this VidMe incident is the big event we’re due, though. If this were a disaster movie, this would be the opening scene were all the birds fall out of the sky. Why do I think we’re headed for a big NSFW content bomb?

First, more than ever, the majority of our online experiences are determined by massive companies that have little-to-no interest in keeping us safe or even happily engaged. Case in point, several weeks ago, when Danish soccer player Christian Eriksen fainted on the pitch and was believed to have possibly died, Twitter began scrubbing the horrifying footage from search results. But they also, confoundingly, turned Eriksen’s cardiac arrest into a Twitter Moment and briefly used a photo of his body as the thumbnail.

We’re also at a moment where people are more online than ever and haven’t been outside properly in a year. This screen-first existence has made us extremely cruel. I’ve seen several videos trending recently of people who are either heavily under the influence or suffering from some kind of other personal crisis that would usually call for compassion or sympathy, only to be instead turned into viral content by another person. We also continue to engage with huge moments of Main Character-ification, where an otherwise normal person is thrust into the national or global spotlight, seemingly at the whim of a company’s Trending Topic.

All of this, I believe, has created a dangerous landscape online. Everything feels broken. Ad tech, Facebook, Twitter — I mean, just yesterday, a massive chunk of the internet went offline for over an hour. The pandemic in many ways has sped up digital adoption and the whole web feels like Vin Diesel’s car in The Fate And The Furious Cuba race right now (lol).

The internet is more automated and concentrated than ever and the majority of the world is now both very online and also traumatized from a months-long global mass casualty event. No one is happy and everything is content and I can’t shake the feeling that the internet, as a whole, is a ticking time bomb.


What If Tumblr Had Become Patreon?

I loved this piece from Ernie Smith’s Tedium yesterday about Tumblr’s new monetization features. Smith writes:

Tumblr has all the elements to be a successful social network, including (now, at least) a monetization strategy that could make sense for both creators and the network itself. But they may have waited too long—and its community may not be as flexible as its owners are.

I’m largely in support of Tumblr’s paywall features and think they’re long overdue. Though, based on the reactions from the community on the site, most of the users do not. It’s important to point out, though, that Tumblr users violently hate everything the site does and then usually completely adapt to it within a matter of months. So it’s probably still too early to judge how Tumblr Post+ will go.

That said, Smith’s piece on Tumblr got me thinking about an interesting what if. Patreon launched in 2013 and, while there were certainly platforms like it at the time, up until recently, it was the main service people thought of when they thought about the creator economy.

Now, imagine if Tumblr had also launched subscription features or other forms of monetization features in 2013. There’s obviously the big issue of copyright — the majority of Tumblr content is fan works, remixes and memes and artwork based on someone else’s intellectual property — but there are also a ton of artists and creators on the platform making original works, as well. Tumblr already functions as a pretty decent website host. And I know a few people who still use it to host personal portfolios. Imagine if it also had paywall features. It could have become the standard for online creatives, possibly even beating out things like Patreon or Ko-fi. I mean, I can tell you from personal experience that Patreon’s CMS is actually one of the worst on the internet if you’re trying to use it to actually publish content and not just random influencer updates. I am constantly looking for alternatives to manage my podcast subscriptions. While, Tumblr’s CMS, on the other hand, might be the best of any social network. It’s tags and sharing features are second-to-none.

So, who knows, maybe it’s not too late and Tumblr can reinvent itself as the premiere spot for creators. Maybe it could finally be that homepage for creators looking for an all-in-one home base. Or maybe Smith is right and this is all too little, too late.


An Update From Grimes

This screenshot of Grimes responding to a TikTok user went viral and not for the reasons you might suspect. Here’s the most popular quote tweet:

Quick aside: Recently, a reader said my speaking voice sounds like Grimes’ and I have not known peace since.


Sick of subscriptions? Burned out on newsletter content? Have nothing to wear after a year-and-a-half inside? Check out the Garbage Day store. I have four designs up there and I think they’re all very cool!


The Facebookification Of Twitter Continues

Twitter is testing out likes and dislikes. People don’t seem like they’re into it! One thing I think worth considering as Twitter chase revenue targets is that it is still a platform used by some of the most irl influential people in politics and media, more so than Facebook. It’s a site that celebrities like Chrissy Teigen actually get withdrawal-like symptoms from not posting on.

And we know that sites with features like Facebook have caused large-scale radicalization in countries around the world. Do we really expect journalists and other cultural tastemakers to be exempt from the same reality-bending psychological effects if Twitter begins to evolve in the same direction? And is that already something that’s happening?


It’s Unfortunately Time To Talk About The Metaverse

Yesterday, my fellow Sidechanneler Casey Newton published an interview with Mark Zuckerberg in which the Facebook CEO declared that the platform’s new goal right now is to “help bring the metaverse to life.” Yesterday, I tweeted that there’s a version the metaverse where a company like Facebook would be irrelevant and there’s a version of the metaverse where a company like Facebook owns it or a version of it and the difference between those two outcomes has profound implications for the openness of the web. Interestingly enough, within minutes of tweeting that, a public comms person from Facebook started following my account 👀

First, let’s quickly define what the metaverse is, in case you’ve never heard of it. It’s based on Neal Stephenson’s novel Snow Crash and it’s basically the internet reimagined as Fortnite. I actually think one of the first writers to understand how the metaverse could come about was former NY Mag writer Brian Feldman, who, in 2018, called Fortnite the Instagram of video games.

The specific version of the metaverse that Zuckerberg is thinking about is one dreamed up by Matthew Ball, a venture capitalist, who wrote a massively dense intro piece and a nine-part follow-up outlining a virtual mall/MMORPG hybrid where users collect avatars and other digital goods to express themselves online. Ball’s version of the metaverse is also very popular with people in the crypto community, particularly NFT artists and collectors, who see a path towards a fully realized metaverse via Web3 technology, or decentralized services that run on the blockchain. Basically, what if Ready Player One ran on Ethereum. What if the internet was an automated casino. What if blogs were Pokémon cards, etc.

Weirdly, no metaverse proponents have discussed how disastrous it would be if social data was put on the blockchain ledger. As Mastodon's CEO Eugen Rochko told me earlier this year, “If there's any information written into the blockchain that needs to be removed, you can't remove it, which is kind of a problem. Social media is the kind of place where there is often a lot of stuff that needs to be removed. Think about private information, doxxing, illegal pornography, etc.” It’s a tremendous irony that metaverse envangelists are typically the same Silicon Valley capitalists who rail against all forms of cancel culture and they’re all obsessed with creating a version of the internet where if you’re canceled, you’re canceled forever. I guess that’s what micropayment revenue does to a mf.

But there’s another version of the metaverse. One where Facebook takes it rightful place next to Myspace in the big social network graveyard in the cloud. Most of the Web3 technology that could be used to make a metaverse is decentralized, meaning anyone can use it and no one can really own it. For instance, I wrote a blog post on a site called Mirror.xyz yesterday and used their feature to mint it into an NFT. Three people bought one so far. I used a website created by a small startup to write a post that I was then paid .03 ETH for, or about $60 USD. That’s neat!

And there are lots of people experimenting with similar kinds of grassroots Web3 projects, like the recent rise of meme NFTs, which are beginning to help online creators get compensated for their memes, which are the ultimate form of unpaid online labor if you think about it. One the other end, Reddit is experimenting with token-based ownership of things like subreddits, where users can buy what are essentially virtual shares of the communities they participate in. Right now, this is being organized by a centralized platform like Reddit, but there’s nothing to stop individuals or communities completely sidestepping a company, and using this kind of technology to build a digital co-opt. What if Minecraft users banded together and formed a decentralized autonomous organization, or DAO, and used it to run a guild. There are lots of interesting use cases for this stuff, though most Web3 tools are still very far away from being user-friendly enough to really have fun with.

But every few years, we find ourselves at a digital fork in the road. With all new technology, we’re given two choices: let massive corporations use this technology to further consolidate power or use it to make the internet more free and open. That’s where we are right now with this metaverse stuff is about. It feels like some form of a Web3 metaverse is coming and we’ll be given a choice. Do we use it to build a better and more open internet of our own or will it power the Facebook mall where you can buy Avengers skins for your Instagram Shopping avatar?


New Kind Of Girl Dropped

You know, she makes some pretty good points about the 2006 film Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest. Did you know it won an Academy Award for Best Visual Effects?


The Machine Is Learning To Tweet

This is fun, it’s a site called Tweet Like Me. It was created by John Herrick and it uses GPT-3 and tries to generate tweets in your voice. My results weren’t great because I use my Twitter account to share news headlines a lot. A lot of the tweets it suggested for me were about Barack Obama and the movie Snowpiercer for some reason? But it did come up with on very good Ryan AI post.


New Trollfoot Pic Dropped

This is a very powerful image. It radiates a very specific kind of energy.


Some Stray Links


P.S. here is the sickest video I’ve ever seen.

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