It’s Wednesday, April 13 2022 in Portland, Oregon and if you have ADHD and the means through which to pay for it because random fluctuations in the quantum foam totally do then I highly recommend getting an ADHD coach because boy am I killing it today.
Two things today, the first of which was a bit of a surprise.
A quick reminder: Things That Caught My Attention, Volume 1 collecting the 45 best essays from episodes 1-50 is out now. You, my three thousand-odd subscribers, can get a copy with 20% off.
Paid supporters and subscribers get a free copy, so imagine a great upsell here to become a paid supporter/subscriber.
This is separate from a Do Not Disturb setting.
So I was bouncing around and ended up looking at Twitter on my phone and the Spacebar was there and there was one Space happening which was some NFT/Web3 crypto stuff that I’m allergic to.
I did not want it there. The Spacebar is like a dickbar (another Twitter-related neologism): it’s a horizontal pseudo-carousel of people’s avatars where they are hosting phone-in radio shows that I think used to be persistent but now only shows up when some product manager has decided I haven’t been irritated enough yet today.
Anyway, this Spacebar appears and I have these thoughts:
First: I do not want this.
Then, normally, I’d expect a product to solicit my feedback about this recommended Space, through some sort of “hey, stop recommending me this” and then it would say “so that we can make you better recommendations” and depending on how gung-ho the team are about juicing their OKRs for Space engagement, it’d then ask me a bunch of reasons why I didn’t like that recommendation like “it doesn’t interest me” or “it’s not relevant” or “it’s about web3 you idiots”.
But you know, I don’t want to do that.
I do not want to tell Twitter that I don’t like its recommendation for a web3 space. Because then Twitter would have that information about me and my reaction (which isn’t necessarily about my preferences or even my likes or dislikes). Twitter could then use that information to, I don’t know, make more recommendations, not recommend web3 spaces, or be a dick and keep recommending web3 spaces until I break.
What I actually want is no recommendations at all.
I want nothing. Do not recommend spaces to me. Do not recommend “topics” to me. Do not even recommend people to follow to me. I don’t want to know.
Let me turn it all off.
Obviously this doesn’t just apply to Twitter, this applies to everything that’s screeching at me trying to Recommend Things. It’s like Recommending is the new Surprise and Delight only Even More Irritating.
I’m not even asking for something like a heavy-handed French-style Right To Be Left The Fuck Alone in the style of The Right To Be Forgotten.
And this isn’t a Do Not Disturb because hey, I do actually want to get some notifications when actual things I want to be notified about happen.
I just want products to stop recommending things. I want them to stop collecting my reactions to things they shove in my face or feed because I do not want the recommendations in the first place.
I do not want the recommendations to improve, okay?
Let me repeat it: I do not want recommendations in the first place.
Now, in the case of Twitter, what I really want is a setting to Turn Off The Fucking Spacebar that takes up space at the top of my feed whenever it’s there.
But hang on: this feeling also applies to my current Instagram experience, which right now is like this:
Just. Stop. Recommending Me Reels. Stop recommending me accounts to follow in the middle of my stream. Because you know what, I might actually like some recommendations every now and then, but you’re kind of hawking them at me? And I can’t escape? You could let me actively ask for recommendations but no no no, these product managers and their bosses (you know who you are) have an overwhelming desire for control or if not, are too busy realizing they could and not thinking about whether they should. Because you know if you have OKRs you don’t need to think maybe? ¯_(ツ)_/¯
Anyway. Big realization moment:
These places are starting to feel suffocating and stifling
That’s what it feels like to use Twitter and Instagram now.
(Weirdly, not TikTok though! Because TikTok’s feed starts from the concept of recommendations in the first place! HUH!)
But in mobile apps like Twitter and Instagram, I have limited screen space. I’m there for the content that was supposed to be foregrounded and highlighted and everything else was supposed to melt away and the content I came for is supposed to be the heroine or whatever.
But no, now Instagram feels claustrophobic. Turns out that being threatened by TikTok can result in you turning your product into a suffocating nightmare.
I hate it.
Yesterday, a friend asked about Apple’s Apple TV 4K1 and what its parental controls are like and I just about exploded.
I say this because I have had many opinions about parental controls before, one of the most recent being “that time I tried to use an MP3 player for our kid to listen to podcasts”.
You may be thinking: why do you need parental controls on a media streaming device2? Don’t applications like Netflix and Hulu and now Disney+ have support for multiple user profiles with independent age ratings and in some cases specific child profiles and interfaces?
And I would say: yes, they do! And whatever apps do on their own time in their own space is totally up to them and you know if Apple were willing to enforce and curate a store for a media streaming device then it might also require supporting multiple age profiles in Reader Applications or whatever they’re called these days.
I mean, for a company that makes a big deal about managing screen time usage and in particular managing devices for children, there’s a super obvious hole in the area of “a device that is used by adults and children”, because devices running tvOS and connected to the largest of screens do not… have any support for screen time.
Now, one perspective on this might be that Apple believes that you don’t need support for screen time and parental controls for an Apple TV because you can just lock down an individual TV and have children use that one, presumably in the wing of your house that your children use while they’re being attended to. This kids Apple TV would pair very well with the iPad Air they use when they’re contemplating what a computer is3.
Here are some things that you can do on the iPad, which is not your iPad, that kids use:
You can do none of those things with an Apple TV. Which is weird, right? I mean, it’s weird to me.
You might also be saying: look Dan, loosen up. Why are you being so restrictive? What’s the thrill of being a kid without having to sneak out after the adults are asleep and find stuff you shouldn’t be watching? Isn’t that a common formative experience you can bond over with your peers? And I would say yes.
But it also means that if you have YouTube on your Apple TV, then hey, good luck! No sticking YouTube behind a PIN! It’s all or nothing!
(We have YouTube on the kids iPad and it is behind a screen time restriction because nobody wants their kids to be accidentally radicalized. I mean, we don’t want our kids to be accidentally radicalized. We don’t use YouTube Kids because it is kind of OK and also kind of terrible and those are our choices these days).
This feels dumb. I mean, dumb cable boxes have parental controls for traditional broadcast channels. In a shocking turn of events, Xfinity, the cable provider that had to change its name because it was Comcast, lets you lock access to applications behind a PIN. Xfinity! Look!
As an X1 user, you can individually lock the following apps on X1: Netflix, YouTube, My Account, Pandora, Facebook, Instagram, Flickr, xFi, Voicemail and Home. When an app is locked, you’ll need to enter your four-digit Parental Control PIN before you can open it.
Roku won’t even let you put YouTube behind a PIN!
As my kids would say, this is super poopy and is made of butts.
Lately, we have been looking at houses.
Me: Ha look at this, Zillow is asking me if I am Enjoying Using Zillow. I am going to put No.
Robin: That’s not Zillow’s fault though.
Me: Yes, but those are the breaks when my only choices are “Yes” or “No” and there’s no free text or option for “we live in a housing hellscape” or “why the fuck were you buying up houses in Portland”.
Phew, okay! It’s Wednesday!
This means that if you follow the Gregorian calendar and you benefit from union action that bestowed upon some of us the concept of a “weekend” which is the time we have to chip away at the increasing administrative burden that is “existing in the early 21st century”, then we are halfway through the week!
How are you doing?
I expect it’ll become apparent further down this episode, but by “streaming device” I also include “the interface to streaming services” that might just be the TV’s interface. No separate over-the-top streaming device necessary. ↩