Start Often F*@k Achievements

Hello there. Here is Digitally Literate, issue #312.

This week I worked on a lot of things in the background.

If you haven’t already, please subscribe if you would like this newsletter to show up in your inbox. Reach out and say hello at

NYC’s nonprofit DIY internet is taking on Verizon & more

Limited or no access to high speed internet throws up massive barriers to education, employment, health, banking, social networking, and government service options. One non-profit is looking to challenge the top dogs by providing people with another option of where they get their internet.

NYC Mesh thinks the answer may be a decentralized, community-driven internet network — a “mesh” — that can service city residents for little to no cost. 

Read more here.

How Facebook and Google fund global misinformation

Karen Hao on how the tech giants are paying millions of ad dollars to bankroll clickbait actors, fueling the deterioration of information ecosystems around the world. Many of these actors *would not exist* without these payments from both platforms.

Over the past few weeks, the Facebook Papers have reaffirmed that FB has fueled the spread of hate speech & misinformation around the world. But there’s a crucial piece missing from the story. FB isn’t just amplifying misinformation. The company is also funding it.

How Twitter got research right

Casey Newton indicating that while other tech giants hide from their internal researchers, Twitter is doing its failing — and fixing — in public. Here’s what Newton learned in the review.

  • Twitter is betting that public participation will accelerate and improve its findings.
  • Responsible AI is hard in part because no one fully understands decisions made by algorithms.
  • There’s no real consensus on what ranking algorithms “should” do.
  • Twitter thinks algorithms can be saved. 

Disney’s text-to-speech TikTok voices censored words like “gay” and “lesbian”

TikTokers have demonstrated that Disney’s text-to-speech TikTok voice, meant to sound like Rocket the Raccoon, would refuse to read words like “gay,” “lesbian,” or “queer” out loud.


The ending is my favorite part #disneyplusday #disneytexttospeech #rocket #rockettexttospeech #disneyvoice #lesbian #lesbianstereotypes #ledollarbean #gaytiktok #lesbiantiktok #lgbtcreators #queertiktok #alphabetmafia🌈

♬ Disney wont say Gay – KaraBiner (Kbwild)

This decision seems to have been reverted — you can now get the voice to read out those words, but it’s unclear why it was happening.

This is interesting as it raises questions about what we could and should do with technology.

More Software Isn’t Better Software

A few months after Eugen Rochko earned his degree in computer science, he decided to push out an open sourced social network not too different from one of his favorite — but flawed, in his view — sites, Twitter. He named it Mastodon and it soon took off.

Mastodon is shared was created as free, open source software with a “copy-left” license, which means anyone can download it, run it, and change it, on the condition that they continue to work under the same license and freely share the altered version they are operating.

Last month, Rochko learned that Mastodon was being used to run Donald Trump’s new Truth Social network. Rochko may not agree with the views expressed on the new network. But, the licensing for the software indicates that he can not ask that they refrain from using Mastodon. Not only is Trump permitted to use the software for his own peculiar purposes, but the free software saves a startup like Truth Social millions of dollars in programming expenses. All Mastodon asks in return is that Truth Social then pay it forward. As of the date of this newsletter, Truth Social has now complied with this request by making the source code to publicly available in compliance with the license,” which is known as AGPLv3.

It remains to be seen what will happen if Truth Social doesn’t comply with the license.

The battle between Mastodon and Trump’s Truth Social is a reminder that while the internet has changed, the ideals of free software haven’t. That’s a problem. 

The expertise gap

Just about everyone knows how to drive a car. Very few of us know how to build one.

Seth Godin writes about how expertise has changed over the years.  

Folk wisdom is priceless. It’s the sum total of shared human experience, usually around our emotions. But folk wisdom is not the same as folk expertise.

Everyone is entitled to feelings about things, but expertise is earned.

Some people are at a higher risk for Zoom fatigue. Here’s what you can do.

new study recently published in the Journal of Applied Psychology showed that women and newer employees were more likely to feel exhausted by too much time on video calls. The reason helps to both illuminate the causes of Zoom fatigue and how we can all avoid it.

Simply stating that you support the right of your employees to choose when they switch on the camera, cutting unnecessary meetings, and making sure to schedule adequate breaks between calls can go a long way toward preventing burnout and getting the best out of others.

Everyone is entitled to feelings about things, but expertise is earned.

Seth Godin

Intrigued by the the SOFA principle after reading about it in Doug Belshaw’s recent Weeknote.

SOFA stands for Start Often Finish rArely or Start Often F*@k Achievements

SOFA is the name of a hacker/art collective, and also the name of the principle upon which the club was founded. The point of SOFA club is to start as many things as possible as you have the ability, interest, and capacity to, with no regard or goal whatsoever for finishing those projects.

Say hey at or on the social network of your choice.

1 comment

  1. Aaron Davis
    November 30, 2021 at 5:23 am

    Ian, I am intrigued by the SOFA principle. It has me thinking about Adrian Camm’s discussion of ‘permission to innovate’ and the permission to fail forward. I wonder if the other part to starting often is celebrating the failures? This has me thinking about something I wrote once:

    Sometimes success is not about whether an initiative continues to have a meaningful impact or falls on the wayside, rather it is about whether we learn from our failures, whether we reflect on what worked and what we could improve in the future. Just as learning is a lifelong goal, so to should success be. Instead of considering it as something achievable and able to be quantified, I believe that it is best considered as a target, an ideal to which we aim and aspire. Actually hitting the target is only one part of the goal, what is just as important is what that target is and how we go about trying to hit it.

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