gclane: 19th century woman, looking stern (Default)
[personal profile] gclane posting in [community profile] post_tumblr_fandom
Hello. I'd like to float some ideas and see what people think. 

I've read all of the posts, particularly recentlyfolded's issue-by-issue breakdown (so good!), but I haven't branched out into the various links that have been shared. Apologies if I repeat what's already been discussed/decided on elsewhere.

What we have here is an information problem. And, when you have an information problem, the current state of things invites you to think about it like a developer. Our aspirational models are large ICT (information communication technology) companies. Which, I mean, of course - developers know how to solve information problems in a way that's satisfying to their employers and often satisfying to the general public. Their employers make money, money drives attention, so we're all very attached to their version of solutions to problems of information. We're too attached, though - we've really begun to think that these large companies have the best/only solutions to information problems. At least until one of their solutions jumps up and bites us, as it has with Tumblr. (ETA - I've gone back and read my own words and I'd like to make it terribly clear that I have big respect for developers and the many things they are capable of. I think, to put a fine point on it, I have less respect for their employers and people with an excess of decision making power in the places where developers often work.)

I'm a librarian at a very large institution with a lot of money (relatively speaking). My chosen career and where I work means I get to spend a lot of time in rooms with brilliant people who think about information problems in ways that entities like Google and Facebook and Tumblr wouldn't recognize. And, in the past couple of years, a recurring theme of these conversations in these rooms has been bemused despair at everyone else's total shock that Google, Facebook, and Twitter are politically compromised, bigoted, nightmare pits. Because of course they are! Mark Zuckerberg didn't have a single thought in his head beyond all the money he could make when he started expanding Facebook. Google's mission statement and assertion that they aren't evil are laughable. These entities exist to turn a profit, which is just fine - capitalism, right? - but it is their central motive. It is what they wanted to do when they sat down and decided to put on a show. And, as many people have identified, that's what's happening with Tumblr right now. Their porn problem got them kicked off the App Store. They want to be on the App Store because that's where the money is. Ergo, in their heads, the porn must go! But they've never given a thought to what porn means. Or who might be implicated in their choices. Or how their choices might land differently on different communities. Or what a real technological solution to their information problem might look like.

They do not want what we want and have not thought about it in the ways that we've thought about it. Because, really, based on what I've seen here and the critiques I've read on Tumblr, we want to think about it like librarians. We're not foregrounding profit or uncomplicated solutions to difficult questions. We're doing the actual work of solving an information problem. 

All of this is to say that I think we'll be most successful if we focus on what we want, rather than what the solutions look like. When librarians solve information problems, good librarians anyway, we tend to foreground the following - 

  • Access - big, complex, lovely access; not "eh, it's in there somewhere, let's pretend our shit tagging system and mysterious algorithm constitute access"
  • Privacy - How does a user put information in? How does a user take that information back out? How much distance can a user put between themselves and their identity? What if someone uses that distance to do harm? How easy is it to connect someone to their use of an information system? How often is the record of use destroyed? 
  • Marginalized Users - How will any decision made fall on the most vulnerable user of this information system? What will we do when one of those vulnerable users tells us we made a mistake and have harmed them? 
  • Education - How do we bring new people into this information system? How do we teach community norms? How do we teach people how to use the solution we've devised to our information problem? 

Notice the lack of reference to profit, shininess, or scale. I think this is why AO3 keeps coming up in these conversations. They've done this work for the particular problem they wanted to solve. They don't want to do the work of a social network, which I completely respect, but their solutions are very... librarian-ish. And I really appreciate that. 

That's what I've got. I hope it helps. 

Date: 2018-12-06 04:32 pm (UTC)
greywash: A lounging pinup girl, holding a cocktail. (Default)
From: [personal profile] greywash
Thank you so much for this post. I think we crossed-posting-times a little, but we're very much on the same wavelength—I've put out a call to people for actual academic references/human resources that I think might be relevant to this issue (I'm not a librarian, but yes, I am 100% wanting something that solves the library-esque part of the problem, I don't care, ultimately, where I go to share gifs, I just want to know that the conversation is preservable). Do you have any leads you can give us over there? And/or suggestions for my wording on the library science issues?
Edited Date: 2018-12-06 04:32 pm (UTC)

Date: 2018-12-06 05:16 pm (UTC)
prettyarbitrary: (Default)
From: [personal profile] prettyarbitrary
I've got a digital preservation and digital humanities background, and I'm working on my LIS degree currently. I think the digital humanities angle is likely to be more useful here, as digital preservation is really mainly useful to this endeavor in the ways it intersects with digital humanities. But either way, I'm happy to help in these areas.
Edited Date: 2018-12-06 05:30 pm (UTC)

Date: 2018-12-06 05:13 pm (UTC)
kore: (Default)
From: [personal profile] kore
And, in the past couple of years, a recurring theme of these conversations in these rooms has been bemused despair at everyone else's total shock that Google, Facebook, and Twitter are politically compromised, bigoted, nightmare pits. Because of course they are! Mark Zuckerberg didn't have a single thought in his head beyond all the money he could make when he started expanding Facebook. Google's mission statement and assertion that they aren't evil are laughable. These entities exist to turn a profit, which is just fine - capitalism, right? - but it is their central motive. It is what they wanted to do when they sat down and decided to put on a show. And, as many people have identified, that's what's happening with Tumblr right now. Their porn problem got them kicked off the App Store. They want to be on the App Store because that's where the money is. Ergo, in their heads, the porn must go! But they've never given a thought to what porn means. Or who might be implicated in their choices. Or how their choices might land differently on different communities. Or what a real technological solution to their information problem might look like.

SO well-put, thank you.

Date: 2018-12-06 05:31 pm (UTC)
cryptidlibrarian: (Default)
From: [personal profile] cryptidlibrarian
Really glad to see viewpoints like this being put out here!

Date: 2018-12-06 07:48 pm (UTC)
recently_folded: Image from HLV Appledore scene (Default)
From: [personal profile] recently_folded
As someone who's worked as a library director even though I don't have a library degree (it was a very small community, okay?), I want to say that I can think of no one more important to any conversation about organizing and preserving stuff than a librarian. I'm glad to see this addition to our thinking and I definitely feel that any work we do here will benefit from librarian input.

Date: 2018-12-11 08:14 am (UTC)
satsuma: Ace flag overlayed over the bi flag to make some hella gay plaid (Default)
From: [personal profile] satsuma
Public libraries are very possibly the best invention in American History, so i think drawing inspiration from them is definitely a good idea

Date: 2018-12-17 06:17 pm (UTC)
verity: buffy embraces the mid 90s shades (Default)
From: [personal profile] verity
speaking as someone calling from inside the house (I work at a large public tech company with coworkers who have come from Google, Microsoft, and AWS; I previously worked in an MIT CSAIL lab), I don't actually think the archival issue is central here, and I do think the business model is crucial to achieving any real legal or financial protection.

"people who think about information problems in ways that entities like Google and Facebook and Tumblr wouldn't recognize" = I promise you, these organizations do think about information problems. there are 85k people at Google, 25k people at Facebook, and 8k people at Yahoo, Tumblr's parent company. many solutions for information problems are not viable at scale. whether they don't scale in terms of business value, legal risk, complexity, or what—there's a reason that these companies are doing what they are doing. the enormous SESTA/FOSTA crackdown is entirely around legal risk.

scale is absolutely the most crucial issue here. (full disclaimer: I am team federation & decentralization for a number of reasons, including scaling.) AO3 itself has issues supporting the strain of its user base. shininess = UI = usability = also a crucial component of access. profit = the profit/non-profit dichotomy seems really abstract in these conversations, as opposed to a legal distinction around the type of organization. a LLC or DBA operating at a zero or negligible profit margin is the absolute easiest solution that exists; IF you can justify a 501(c)3 and get the paperwork together on the first round, it may take a year to process, whereas you can set up an LLC for $500 tomorrow.

I don't mean to sound combative, but your post comes off as very dismissive toward people with development and industry experience. I worked in a very large academic library for four years and there is a really big difference between collection management at that scale and big data. lots of people have solved the problems - or come up with solutions to! - the problems you raise in this post.
Edited Date: 2018-12-17 06:18 pm (UTC)

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