zsmith.co
Mutiny web platform
My iOS Apps

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Contact:
1 at zsmith dot co


Copyright © 2013-2014 by Zack Smith.
All rights reserved.
Revision 14

About Mutiny

Mutiny is my web application that I intended as an answer to Google+, Twitter, VK, Facebook, and similar services. As it stands today, Mutiny has a raft of features, including blogging, microblogging, and even simple project management.

Mutiny is currently 12,600 lines of PHP code and comments.

Goals

The original goals were:
  1. Provide an alternative to large social networks that repeatedly violate their own users' trust.
  2. Provide a generic platform for self-presentation in the form of blogging and microblogging much as you see with WordPress or at blogger.com.

Trust

Why do social networks violate their own users' trust?

Before the Edward Snowden revelations, Silicon Valley was assumed to be acting solely out of greed and cynicism. So when, for example, Google scanned your emails for keywords, it was argued that they were doing it to improve ad relevance, which sounds benign, doesn't it? Anyway, you agreed to have your data scanned when you agreed to the fine print that you never read. This is unfortunately what passes for ethics at many Internet companies.

However thanks to Snowden's superior understanding of ethics, we now know that the NSA paid millions to ensure that the tech titans complied with the PRISM surveillance program.

In addition to whatever companies agreed to do for the NSA, the agency has also tapped the Internet upstream, and therefore has been able to track users for instance using Google's tracking cookies. Washington Post article Dec 10 2013 You might web-search for QUANTUM COOKIE.

It now seems like a no-brainer that the reason the real names policies of Google and Facebook came about was actually to provide more accurate data to the NSA.

What does social networking really do for people?

Scientific researchers have been looking at what Facebook, as a representative of social networking, does for people and what it doesn't do. A coherent image is beginning to form.

In England, Dr. Sam Roberts found that Facebook does not win you new friends, nor does it improve your existing relationships.
Link

In the USA, social networking has been linked with two aggressive aspects of narcissism: grandiose exhibitionism and entitlement/exploitativeness.
Link

In the USA, a link between the darker aspects of narcissistic personality disorder has been proven by researcher Carpenter at Western Illinois University;
Link Link

In Australia, researchers Ryan and Xenos determined that narcissistic, exhibitionist, and extrovert personalities are drawn to Facebook.
Link

In the USA, researchers Toma and Hancock, at U. Wisconsin-Madison and Cornell respectively, found that users are drawn to Facebook to affirm their self-worth especially after a blow to their ego, i.e. they use it to see how friends view them.
Link

In the USA, researcher Holmes of the University of Southern California found that younger people are more likely to lie about themselves on Facebook and to believe the lies of others, establishing that there is a fantasy buy-in:
Link

Researchers Kirschner and Karpinski, located in the Netherlands and the USA respectively, found that students who are Facebook users have lower GPAs and study less.
Link

This correlation between poor academic performance and studying habits on the one hand and Facebook use on the other was confirmed in a larger study by Junco, in the USA.
Link

Boston researchers Nadkarni and Hoffman found that the need to belong and the need for exhibitionism drive Facebook use.
Link

In the UK, a survey by Anxiety UK found that 51% of social media users felt bad about themselves after using social networking websites.
Link

Weren't we always sharing?

The new phenomenon of social networking is sometimes discounted as nothing new. Before there was Google+, before Facebook, before Myspace, and before Friendster, people shared personal data online and with basically no guarantees of privacy. Even going back 20 years, there was then (and still is) Usenet, which was a distributed collection of thousands of online forums. There was then (and still is) IRC (Internet relay chat). And there has been email throughout.

Yes, some people were narcissistic exhibitionists on Usenet. Yes, people shared too much information sometimes. But much has changed:

  1. It has now gone mainstream. All groups and demographics are engaged in social activity online, not just tech geeks.
  2. Before, personal data was mainly in the form of opinions but today it can be highly personal like dating status, bragging and it often includes audio-visual media.
  3. It is now about narrating lives and careers. Usually these narrations are false e.g. people are not as successful or happy as they claim to be. Online debating has given way to squabbling and trolling.
  4. There is now automatic ownership of your data by most social websites. Even after you die, Facebook reserves the right to profit from your data. Valleywag article
  5. The new overemphasis on online friends and entertainment can degrade and discourage face-to-face friendships.
  6. Anonymity is now under direct threat from companies that have real name policies. Previously some anonymity was possible.
  7. In some cases, online social activity is now required for work or school.

Weren't we always interacting at a distance?

Non face-to-face interactions are often unhealthy. They easily degrade to shows of status, self-deception, mutual deception (fantasy buy-in), fake praise, baseless put-downs, blind belief and stalking.

Non face-to-face interactions have never worked well. They didn't 30 years ago when they took place in dial-up bulletin boards, nor 20 years ago on Usenet or IRC, nor 10 years ago on Myspace, nor on Twitter today.

Interaction at a distance has always been problematic for many reasons. The online world does not make it work better but amplifies the problems.

What other pitfalls are there?

You don't have to be a research scientist to uncover some truths about the perils of social networking. You just have to observe and think, as these people have:
  • Julian Assange: social networking is a surveillance tool.
  • Dave Cullen: online relationships are shallow; making private information public is stupid; and Facebook is mental junk food.
  • Chris Duane: social networking is a look at me fest for increasingly impoverished over-consumers juxtaposed with marketing scams.
  • Ross Gardiner: people are more interesting in person and social networking enables Peeping Tom behavior.

MIT professor Sherry Turkle says we are increasingly alone together: NY Time article. Social media provide three lies:

  • The lie that we can control our attention to what and whom we desire.
  • The lie that we will be heard.
  • The lie that we ought never be alone.

It is also fairly obvious and established that social networking facilitates cyberbullying, stalking, and trolling by cretins and cowards. This was true to an extent 20 years ago, but today because people put more intimate data online, therefore abuses are potentially worse.

Social networking has also been credited with helping to establish an epidemic of bragging, not just by children but also from parents who ought to know any better but don't seem to:

Project status

For now I have paused development on Mutiny and if/when I continue with it, it will be somewhat different.

In the end, many people have a need (practical or not) for self-expression and self-presentation. Increasingly, young people are trying to find alternatives to mainstream social networking sites, particularly to avoid their parents, and are embracing a different paradigm: messaging apps.

Demonstration

My demonstration of Mutiny is here.

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