The Lede

I was originally going to skip the lede today because, well, I’ve been busy and then traveling for Easter, so I’ve been offline a lot. However, one thing kept popping up in my conversations this week, even with family: What do I think about Elon’s offer to buy Twitter?

It’s worth getting out of the way that with Elon, I admire the accomplishments, but not the persona. His antics on Twitter are boring and childish, honestly. It bugs me enough that Tesla is at the bottom of the list of car companies I would consider for an EV (though his persona is not the only reason for that).

With that said, it won’t surprise you to read that I’m not a fan of Musk buying Twitter. I have lots of personal concerns about an Elon-led Twitter, including concerns about a Trump reinstatement being likely, but I’ll leave all of that aside.

Professionally, his free speech absolutism is naive and simplistic. The most interesting reactions to the news came from people with experience running or studying content moderation at scale. If you’ve ever idly thought, “How hard can moderation be?,” I invite you to read some of the links below. It’ll be fascinating to see how this plays out if he successfully completes the purchase, though I don’t believe it’ll end well for a product I still love and use every day.

Of course, he still needs to show he can actually close the purchase. I’ve been traveling all weekend, so I may have missed any recent developments, but I didn’t see where he was getting the money to pull this off. His wealth is tied up in stock, and several reports show that he doesn’t have enough liquid cash or a ready lender to pull this off solo.

Most of all, I feel bad for my friends that work at Twitter. Can’t imagine this feels good as an employee in a lot of different ways.

  • Elon Musk Demonstrates How Little He Understands About Content Moderation: This reads more as a critique of Chris Anderson’s interview, which is fair enough, but I’m leading with this because it links to some interesting reads, including Kate Klonick’s paper, The New Governors (PDF Link). It’s a good place to start looking at content moderation challenges beyond the sensational things that tend to make the normal press.
  • [Yishan’s] take on Elon’s offer for Twitter: A thread from the former CEO of Reddit on what awaits Musk if he takes over Twitter. Short version: “I think if Elon takes over Twitter, he is in for a world of pain. He has no idea.” Elon replied, but of course he just made a joke and didn’t engage in the substance.
  • How will Musk pay for Twitter?: The Times lists out some limits on how Musk can use his wealth to buy Twitter. It seems like he will need a partner or two to pull this off.
  • Sure Elon Musk Might Buy Twitter: This gives a little more context around the shareholder response, how serious Musk might be, and how he might raise the funds if he is indeed serious. Also worth noting, Mark Levine was quoted a few times by a few of the folks I read every week as someone who has a good read on Musk. I’ve added him to my follows for now.

Reads

  • A guide to pronouncing names of global tech companies: If you’ve ever wondered how to pronounce Shein or Pinduoduo or Eyowo, this tool will help you out. Also a good list of companies to be aware of. Shein, for example, has come up in several conversations over the last few weeks - not enough people know how big it is, and how it’s different from Amazon or H&M, two obvious comparison points.
  • Decentralized Speed: Advances in Zero Knowledge Proofs: Whatever happens with NFTs and blockchains generally, there’s a lot of interesting work supporting those the ecosystem. Zero Knowledge proofs are emerging as a way to address some of the scalability concerns with blockchains, and so for that reason alone, they’re worth being aware of. This piece does a good job of mapping out a potential evolutionary path and lays out some history. It felt like a good starting point for further research.
  • WordleBot: Your Daily Wordle Companion: The one thing I’m dilligent about is finishing the NYT Crossword every single night. I’ve since added Wordle to the evening routine, because I love the simplicity and comparing notes with friends. The Times launched this tool to help give you feedback on your Wordle game play - it’s pretty nifty, and the UX is interesting.

Listens

  • Reply All - #185 The Rainbow Chain: What happens to an NFT stolen from someone’s wallet, and is it possible to track it down and, even better, return it? This podcast host tries, starting from a very basic knowledge of NFTs. It’s an entertaining listen, and a good way to get a sense of why regular people (aka non-tech-folks) get into NFTs, the pitfalls of today’s UX in buying and managing NFTs, and some interesting tactics in chasing down the owner of an NFT.
  • Darknet Diaries - EP 114: HD: If you’ve ever heard of Metasploit, you know the work of HD Moore, the guest on this episode. This is a fascinating rundown of the history of Metasploit and the gray areas involved in ethical hacking. Darknet Diaries is one of those hit or miss listens for me, but when it hits, it’s fascinating! This one was one of them.

Code & Tools

  • SlowSocial.us: This is eerily like the side project I’m hacking on myself, down to some of the key tech choices, but it’s different enough that I’m curious to see how people react to it. (Search for me if you end up trying it out - I’m on with my full name). The comment thread on Hacker News has some interesting observations and suggestions. A lot of interest on finding more thoughtful connection with our friends. I’m also going to give a couple of the apps linked in the comments a try. Will link to any of those that seem interesting.

Maker & Home Automation

  • Athom Smart Devices: I was a little bit put off by the web site, but after reading a number of positive recommendations on various smart home subreddits, I decided to try their smart plugs. They’re working pretty well, and I’m happy with them. Their devices come preflashed with either ESPHome or Tasmota, and include smart plugs, bulbs, switches, and some other odds and ends. Since they’re running one of these open source projects, they can be easily upgraded or reflashed. I opted for the ESPHome version, since I run Home Assistant and have used it for projects in the past. Love having this company’s products as an option. More like this please.