One of the things I enjoy doing most is think about the terms we’re using. Not sure if that’s because how my brain makes sense of the world around me or something that comes with my philosopher side but thinking and writing about the words, ideas and systems feels like a game to me.
That’s why, time to time, I wrote about the terms that seemed worth writing it down in the blog. But the more I went deeper thinking about the world we’re in and what’s going on, some words or concepts started to appear more and stronger. So I’ve decided to collect my ideas about these, collecting the words in the meantime.
I’ve started this blogchain with 0, because I wanted to talk about the term “passwords” first. The term I’m stealing from Baudrillard. He defines it like this:
Passwords – the expression seems to me to describe quite well a quasi-initiatory way of getting inside things, without, however, drawing up a list. For words are bearers and generators of ideas – perhaps even more than the reverse. As weavers of spells and magic, not only do they transmit those ideas and things, but they themselves metaphorize and metabolize into one another by a kind of spiral evolution. It is in this way that they are ‘passers’ or vehicles of ideas.
Passwords – Jean Baudrillard, p. IX
What I do —or want to do— with the words and concepts in this series (or experiment?) is quite similar to what Baudrillard does in the book Passwords.
We think we advance by way of ideas – that is doubtless the fantasy of every theorist, every philosopher – but it is also words themselves which generate or regenerate ideas, which act as ‘shifters’.
Passwords – Jean Baudrillard, p. X
Like he says, words we use to think and generate ideas shapes those ideas and change how it can evolve. This is why we’re seeing more and more examples of discussions based on definitions or how should we define what we’re going through. Because the words we use to define our ideas and experiences plays an important role, most of the time without us noticing it.
The words we’re using, how we’re using and who defines what it can or should mean is an important power. Letting the words defined for us to shape our ideas also means giving up our imagination.
This is especially important today. No one can deny that we’re going through some paradigm shift globally. Whether it’s the jackpot or something more positive, there’s a radical change going on. This change requires new words and concepts to think about it and discuss the meaning of the old ones.
Because words pass, then; because they pass away, metamorphose, become ‘passers’ or vehicles of ideas along unforeseen channels not calculated in advance, the expression ‘passwords’ seems to me to enable us to reapprehend things, both by crystallizing them and by situating them in an open, panoramic perspective.
Passwords – Jean Baudrillard, p. X
That’s why I feel the need for passwords. Passwords for the weird and deadly interesting times.
Goodreads today looks and works much as it did when it was launched. The design is like a teenager’s 2005 Myspace page: cluttered, random and unintuitive. Books fail to appear when searched for, messages fail to send, and users are flooded with updates in their timelines that have nothing to do with the books they want to read or have read. Many now use it purely to track their reading, rather than get recommendations or build a community. “It should be my favourite platform,” one user told me, “but it’s completely useless.”
Goodreads is one of those platforms people really hate but feel like there’s no other option. Especially with Amazon buying it years ago and only adding Kindle integration and not dealing with anything else (such as their major spam account issue and not even being able to report them) it’s turning more and more into a website which is used by Amazon for selling more stuff.
There has been some discussions I’m following about what could be done about it. Tom Critchlow‘s “Library JSON“. Decentralized projects always gets me excited but at the same time I know that it’s practically impossible to turn it into something adoptable by everyone. Mostly because decentralized projects generally think about people who are technically more capable.
This doesn’t mean that I’m not going to test it when Tom makes a more robust version of Library JSON. I’m sure I will. But right now I have a new possible favorite called TheStoryGraph. There are many things I like about it and it really solves a lot of the personal problems I have with Goodreads.
From there, The StoryGraph recommends books, marked by thematic tags and length and accompanied by well-researched synopses. But beyond the design and descriptive tags, there is one major difference Goodreads users will notice: ratings are almost unnoticeable, deprioritised to the bottom of the page.
TheStoryGraph is definitely more social but not like Facebook or Twitter, which are focused on playing you with their algorithms and not actually caring about what you want from these platforms. They’re actually focused on helping people to find new books.
Of course there are things TheStoryGraph has to be careful about while growing up. Tom’s quote on this summarizes it beautifully:
But Tom Critchlow argues that a “better Goodreads”, with functionality such as The StoryGraph offers, must avoid falling for the “seductive and imaginary ideas about social networks” that doomed a long list of previous competitors, including his own. “So many people dream of disrupting Goodreads,” he says, “[but] focus on the wrong things, myself included.”
Today Jay Owens wrote a really good Twitter thread on the problems of blaming private social places like Facebook and WhatsApp groups for everything.
Which already explains so many of those problems but I want to focus on two specific sides of it. One of them is the fact that those who claim that private groups are causing the fake news/extremism/everything wrong with the internet are not aware of the privilege they’re living in. Thinking that we can fix everything if we make it public can easily traced back to early 2010s anti-privacy argument “I have nothing to hide.” Most of these people never been in a situation which they needed a safe and/or private space to talk and discuss about their world views and ideas and it clearly shows.
Also thinking that we can solve everything if all of these groups are public (which because of my MA thesis I read similar arguments a lot), means that we can track and analyze what everyone is talking and detect the ones causing the problem early. Which is not just a really bad remake of Minority Report but also taking the side of the surveillance capitalism and one of the main reasons behind these problems.
Make platforms delete everything government doesn’t like
Ban all of them
And my personal favorite (and this is real), make a law forcing everyone to enter these platforms with their national ID numbers.
If you’re one of those people who’s against the private channels and groups, you should think that these are all amazing ideas, except banning them. But most of the people writing those pieces would think these proposals are authoritarian, anti freedom of speech etc. Because that’s what they actually are.
So let me just ask, how do you think that making everything public will solve these problems you’re aiming to solve? Do you really think that all of these are happening just because it’s private, or what you really want is some authority to control everything people are doing online? If it’s the first one, you should do some actual research about those issues you’re dealing with and then start writing only after that. And if it’s the latter, thanks for helping many governments around the world to feel like they’re doing the right thing by surveilling and censoring their people all the time.
Aside from the fact that forcing every conversation into public and making it available to surveillance and censorship, this whole argument just dismissed many of the real reasons behind the current problems we’re facing online. I know those people will probably won’t change their minds or think about these issues in a more nuanced way because, like Jay said, no one wants to publish those. Who has time to think about the complex problems in a nuanced way when you can blame one thing and get the clicks.
There’s also another problem with this approach to private groups. Thinking that people only go to private places because they want somewhere to spread their “dark” ideas is just dismissed the problems platforms causing. Just think about how algorithmic timelines, forced interactions, surveillance based ads and economic models, context collapse and doomscrolling affects people.
While all of these happening, it’s more than normal for people to look for a place which they can have more control over. A Facebook group which includes only the people interested in a specific topic, WhatsApp groups for family/friends/neighbors, locking their social media accounts, returning to newsletters and blogs to have a conversation about the topics you want with only the people interested in it. Even Discord just recently changed their branding because there is a big wave of people who creates channels to talk about things other than gaming.
It’s clear that whatever is motivating people to be more private online is something much bigger than any scapegoating attempt we see. It’s also getting more and more clear that people want more control on their digital interactions and want private spaces to talk about things which they want to keep inside a smaller group. If people who can’t (or don’t want to) fully understand what is really going on will have the power to influence how to act on this, I don’t think anything good will come out of it.
I’m always interested in reading how people work, what type of workflows they have. It’s probably because for so long I felt like I didn’t really have one or the ones I tried didn’t stick with me too long. Now I know why that was the case but it deserves its own post (spoilers: it was undiagnosed ADHD).
Since I’ve been redoing almost all of my workflow, I also wanted to write about it. Not just to say these are the tools I’m using but also have a conversation about it because, like I said, I love talking about tools and workflows.
Roam Research: Currently the backbone of my workflow is Roam Research and I have to thank Johannes for pointing that tool out for me. Other than being the perfect tool for me to research, take notes and manage all that stuff I’ve been doing; it also changed my approach to the tools I’ve been using and how I should be choosing them instead. And I’m not exaggerating when I say that Roam is what I needed because I’ve tried Evernote, Workflowy, Notion, Simplenote,Notes.app, Google Keep, random text files everywhere, just physical notebooks and many other method and tool you can probably think of —and yes, I also tried the “Roam alternatives” but none of them sticked with me. Only Notion had some potential but it didn’t worked for my own personal case, probably because it’s more team focused.
Task Management: But when it comes to task managing I’m still sticking with Things for pretty simple reasons like reminders, automation, pulling tasks directly from the other tools I’m using etc. Also it’s Upcoming tab with calendar events makes easier for me to see what’s up next.
Reading and Research: It all happens in four main place and a helper to keep things under control.
Newsblur for RSS, which in my case where I mostly keep up with the internets. Also decided to forward news-related newsletters to it so I can only keep personal ones in my inbox.
Pocket to read online articles and highlight, Kindle for most of my book reading. These two basically where “the reading” happens. Other than the paper books of course.
DEVONthink is my own personal library. Most of my research materials and other files I want to keep organized goes inside it.
When I highlight things or take notes in any of them I usually pull them to Roam now. At this point, another tool Johannes recommended comes into play: Readwise. It’s a tool that collects all of my highlights from everywhere you can think of and then I can review them, add tags and notes to them and organize however I want. With that, I organize all that notes from Kindle and Pocket —which otherwise would be left to collect digital dust— and export them to Roam. In DEVONthink’s case, it gives me a really easy way to take all of my annotations and use it however I wish.
Writing: My go-to was Ulysses since I moved to macOS. But both subscription thing and noticing some aspects of it not really working for me, I’ve decided to move to iA Writer. Since I enjoy writing in Markdown and it also makes it easier to export however I want, a tool like that is just what I need. If the thing I’m writing is academic or needs some extra formatting and/or MS Word stuff, I just export it when I’m done and continue from there. And so far, iA Writer does all of these just the way I want. (For example I wrote this in iA Writer and posted it to my blog as a draft.)
Right now the current flow seems working just fine for me. With help of little bit scripting and automation, adjusting some settings here and there and using Alfred‘s powers when I’m on the laptop, I think I’m getting there.
In the meantime, I’m also thinking writing about Roam and my personal experience with it. And then maybe a personal piece on the stuff I mentioned at the beginning.
On most of what people call “the internet” I’m somewhere between lurker and behind the locked accounts. I want to draw more solid lines on that but maybe what I need is just going with the flow and seeing where it’s going to take me.
What I’m actually thinking about lately is actually my newsletter. I want to go back writing it and making it one of my regular online presence but I’m not really sure about the shape and the frame I want to put on it.
I already took some steps on the infrastructure side of it (which I have explained why in detail on the draft of the first new issue which still waiting me to finish it for, I don’t know, two weeks?). But I still don’t really know what I want that newsletter to be. Sure, keeping people up to date in a way that’s much readable and accessible than Twitter and maybe adding links to things I enjoyed and want other people to see. But what else? Are these enough to write a newsletter?
Probably one thing that’s blocking me to plan this whole thing is I’m still not sure what I’m going to put in this blog. Because I still don’t have a solid idea for one of them, it feels impossible to shape the other. Where’s the line between the blog and the newsletter? I know many people have this line drawn long time ago but when I was writing the newsletter I wasn’t blogging so I used that format pretty much similar to how I blog. Now I’m making those two my main online places so I have to do the hard work.
This is probably the moment I should plan a format for the newsletter. I still don’t know what it’s going to be but the only way to find out is to experiment. In the meantime, this blog is where I’ll be.
Let’s start thinking about how we can make the world better as we move from pandemic and quarantine into whatever comes next.
Recovery Con is something Willow decided to give it a shot around the end of March, when it was clear that we’re in this for the long run. It’s going to be all about thinking about what’s next for all of us and what we all are thinking and want to do.
Inspiration behind the con is quite similar to my “new bleak” piece. That’s why I was quite excited when Willow invited me for a talk. I’ve decided to talk about what should we keep in mind when we think about the future and the world beyond the end of capitalism. Especially in a global sense, because we’re in this together.
You should definitely register and join with us at 23rd of May and let’s talk about all the things we want to talk. It’ll be good for all of us. I’m also planning to put the text of my talk after the event. Probably it’ll be a sequel to the new bleak in many sense.
This is the sentence that’s been circling inside my head for a while now. Not that I was thinking that everything was going great so far —hell, I call the things I’m writing and thinking about “weird and deadly interesting” so no rose-tinted glasses here. But it’s clear that we took a huge step towards whatever this is. We’re walking through the territories we don’t have a map for.
But even though we don’t fully know what’s going to happen next and where we’re headed, I feel like it’s important to have a name(s) for it. Doesn’t matter if it fits or not, just to start thinking and writing and the conversation. This is why I decided to go with “new bleak”, instead of “new normal”. Because I don’t think normal is a word that can help us to describe what’s happening and what’s ahead of us. Also, I heard the term used on Turkish TV news, so it’s safe to say that it doesn’t really mean anything now.
Everything is changing, nothing what we used to call normal makes sense. Even though most of you who’ll read this were already critical about the complex system we’re inside, not many of us were expecting this. Like Laurie Penny said, this is not the apocalypse we were expecting.1 We didn’t know that a simple virus can show everyone the real face of the late capitalism and how all of our states are ready to save corporations first and ready to sacrifice everyone else for them. We didn’t know that people were ready to attack 5G towers to defeat a virus. We also didn’t know that people were so ready to organize, help each other and try to find help for people at the other side of the planet. Not a single forecast about 2020 were expecting any of these. None of us were expecting to do the things we’re doing right now.
All of this is new and definitely not normal. Normal feels like a useless word right now. Especially when you hear all the heads on TV and newspapers talking about “returning the normal” while not considering the fact that the normal they want to return so badly is the main reason we’re here right now. I know this sounds a bit like cliche but it should be said until everyone understands it.
And definitely these are bleak times. Everything is fucked, thousands of people are dying every day, almost every country is fucking things up one way or another and all of them are focused on making capitalism happy first. The worst part is they’re still in control and it feels like there’s so little we can do other than trying to survive this and help others around us to survive too. It’s natural to be pessimistic in this situation, feel like things are only going to get worse even after we get rid of the pandemic —because all the signs are telling that too.
I know it is hard to talk or even think about anything right now. I’ve been there and I still might be. But not trying makes things worse. It just builds inside our brains until it implodes. Because we’re angry right now. Angry, hurt, panicked, sad, confused… It’s natural but can get worse and harmful if we don’t let these feelings outside. We have to talk about what we’re feeling, thinking, dreaming. What we think the reason we’re in this situation and how we can solve this. It doesn’t matter if you just have a small idea or a full scheme. We have to put all of those out, see what others are thinking and start conversations about it.
We have to think about the future. What might be or should be ahead of us. Because even though this is the new bleak, to me it feels like what’s next is up for grabs. This is not to say that we should rush for the hot takes about the future. Because those are generally “made before the current situation, after all, using the ideas and categories and levers that were in place before the virus spread.”2 What we need right now is not hot takes, Twitter slogans or ready-made full future scenarios. Quoting from Johannes Kleske3:
”The only thing that any possible future scenario is good for right now, is to tell you something about the world-view, the values, and the imagination of the person publishing it. Use the insights from that analysis to design better preferable future scenarios.”
This is not to say that we shouldn’t talk about the future or think about the possible scenarios. We can but when we do, we should be critical about these and dive as deep as possible to make sure we’re not falling into any pitfalls. This is also why it can be useful to read and listen what others are saying about it, even though you hate them for reasons. Because having that insight and understanding is really useful.4
Conversation and community matters most in this situation. Not some hand-over future from people who thinks they’re above us. We need half-baked ideas, diverse perspectives, long conversations and silly memes. While everyone is relearning that we can use internet for building global communities and events —instead of satisfying the algorithm gods— we should take full advantage of it. This is a global crisis and the new bleak is effecting every part of the world in a similar but also a different way. We should use all of this to understand the current system’s complexity and how interconnected it is. Understand the ideas, logic and the ideology behind it. Understand how it works and how it failed for all of us.
There’s so much we can and should do. Yes, this is the new bleak but what comes after next depends on us. We should think about the future because even though we act like we’re already in the future, “the future needs to be constantly invented and drawn down to us.”5 This is the best time to do that.6 And this might be the best time to break the spell and even think about the end of the capitalism and the future beyond that. Why not?
This is my attempt to contribute to the conversation that’s been slowly starting about the now and the potential futures ahead of us. This is not a perfect text and I didn’t want it to be. This is the time to put our half-baked thoughts and observations outside and see what happens.
Let’s talk, build some weird futures and schemes worthy of these bleak times, form communities beyond any border or logic and see where we can go from there.
”Revolutions are dark, murky, and can be (very) slow. Living with, and through revolutions, is an act of hope.” — Anab Jain
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