Humour isn’t really my forte, but every now and then I dabble.
Cleaning up some old computer files yesterday, I came across a slide deck I put together in 2013, just for fun.
I think I was invited to join Google Plus in late 2012; I don’t really recollect too clearly. At that time I still thought editing Wikipedia articles was worth my time. Before I realized that a small clique of pseudo fascists was turning the whole thing into American imperial propaganda, and driving out people with domain knowledge in favour of rules that see the whole thing awash with falsehoods and disinformation.
Google Plus seemed like an opportunity to engage with others in discussion threads on topics not quite as dull as celebrity gossip, cat gifs, and narcissistic self-promotion. For a while there were some great discussions, but the narcissists won in the end, and Google let them trash their investment.
By 2013 a few of us were convinced we could agitate to see better development of tools for text threads. We failed. Changes were forthcoming several times, but these were woefully inadequate, both for data harvesting purposes, and for any utility in keeping people like me engaged. You had to wonder how extraordinary sums of money and highly paid tech-heads could have fucked up the Google attempt to compete with Facebook so badly.
It was my critiques of Google Plus architecture, process mappings, and technical implementation that put me at odds with squads of people berating me for being critical of Google Plus while still using it.
And that led me to experiment with message and medium, including a slide deck in which I combined visuals (easy for even idiots to understand), with a Star Trek theme (easy for pop-culture neckbeards to understand) to respond to their critiques of my critiques.
So, yesterday I found the slide deck, and thought some of the images were worth recycling. As undergraduate as my sarcasm may seem, it still describes accurately how I would assess the Google Plus debacle today.
One of the most common criticisms I faced was that if I didn’t love the platform as offered, I shouldn’t be on it. The kind of Stalinist-meets-cultist attitude that is still a fashion in Silicon Valley, and accurately presaged the whole neo-fascist, Qanon, Trumpist anti-intellectualism Americans seem so fond of.
It seems almost as if Google paid zealots to comb through Google Plus threads to upbraid anyone who dared to suggest Google wasn’t to be worshiped unquestioningly.
There were already plenty of people around at the time who seemed to pursue the pastime of feeling insulted by anything and everything. Some almost elevated this to a kind of pseudo-profession. Anticipating the whole outrage culture frequently, but mistakenly, associated with woke ideas. What it was then, and remains today, is self-promotion through a facile kind of virtue-signalling.
It is the Hitler Youth conception of being mortified when confronted by ideas other than their own, requiring thought and analysis. Possibly even re-evaluation of lazy ideological beliefs.
I always took that attitude as an invitation to pull on those loose threads to see people unravel. Probably immature of me, but, also insightful about the motivations of many people to stick with entirely shallow conceptions of the world. And sometimes it was even fun to watch people get turned around when they realized that online witch-hunting is not as easy as open-carry bullying.
One of the most frequently repeated, astonishingly silly arguments I heard was: ‘Google employs some of the smartest people on the planet.’ Maybe so, but they demonstrated unlimited incompetence in misconceiving Google Plus from start to finish. So much so that Google abandoned the platform after spending millions on it.
I never saw any reason to be humble in the presence of the people who failed so miserably, despite plenty of advice from knowledgeable people looking for Google Plus to succeed.
There was some more rhetoric in the original PowerPoint that really doesn’t bear re-hashing, but the last images might be amusing even today. Judging by some recent events (Google and Facebook sulking about paying for Australian news media content), those images still represent the overpoweringly arrogant attitudes of the America’s tech giants.
I don’t have a Facebook profile, though I peak at it every now and then through friends’ accounts. I just don’t see its utility for me. My Twitter account is dormant; I won’t play Twitter’s data harvesting game. I was never an Instagram or Pinterest person.
Maybe I’m just old and jaded, but I just don’t understand how the tech giants, with so much to gain by it, haven’t created a more robust discussion network rather than becoming the cultivators of fake news, disinformation, conspiracy theories, and hate speech. It’s almost as if they are planning for their own obsolescence. But planning would imply a deliberate activity rather than continuously knee-jerk reactions.
Still, the tech giants wouldn’t be where they are but for millions of idiots happy to be exploited by them.