Start a Blog They Said, It Will Be Fun They Said

I’ve started this blog last Saturday, expecting maybe a few dozen people to read my first post.

My aim was to have a place for my thoughts which can’t readily be expressed in short tweets/toots, to have a space for writing about topics that require a bit more nuance. I could have written about several different topics to start things off, but Chrome was on my mind due to a thread on Twitter so on Saturday I spent about an hour editing a few thoughts into a blogpost. I’ve tooted a single link on Mastodon linking to that post and that was it.

In 24 hours over a hundred thousand1 people have viewed it. That gave me quite a bit of anxiety.

I would have phrased things more coherently and spent more time drafting it, had I known that it would be posted to hacker news, a bunch of subreddits, and linked from a dozen news sites. But that wasn’t really what caused most of my anxiety. Before news sites got a chance to report on that Chrome behaviour, the post started spreading virally and as people linked to it, some of them added claims that just weren’t in my original post. Then people with larger megaphones retweeted/boosted those claims with the more sensationalistic (and therefor more viral) takes.

So on Sunday I added several updates and clarifications to my original post (”no, a login doesn’t enable Sync by itself”) and tried chasing down several people spreading some incorrect information on Twitter. It’s the first time I’ve seen from the inside how viral stories propagate and how random the information that one can encounter is.

Meanwhile, Google project managers got involved on social media, took the partly wrong information out there and used that to put a spin on the whole topic. (paraphrasing) “Oh this is WRONG! It’s not Syncing at all and therefor there is no privacy issue! It’s a small UI fix!” I wouldn’t necessarily call it dishonest, but this certainly qualifies as spin for me. As far as I know people who raised this Chrome autologin issue (including me) were and are concerned about the browser login in itself, irrespective of Syncing.

News reporting brought some clarity, dispelling the wilder rumours (with some sites doing better than others2). For me this shows that news reporting isn’t perfect, but it is essential. Opinions were divided as to how big of a deal this new Chrome behaviour is, but almost all the articles focused on the privacy angle. Most of them didn’t mention the monopoly/neutrality angle, even though I think that’s probably the more important side of the story.

So what now? I would like to see more original reporting on this topic. The initial reports and news have taken my post at face value and while flattering, this was a post on a couple of hours old blog, with no outbound links to the assertions in the post and (at the time) a missing About section. I could have written anything.

As to this blog, I’ll keep posting here about topics that catch my interest. Since this went viral, here is a link to my SoundCloud. Just kidding, I really dislike when people do that. I didn’t create this blog to promote myself, so please expect thoughtstream style posts in the future.

  1. based on some crude server-side analytics, I don’t have or plan on having any user tracking on this blog at all. [return]
  2. I toyed with the idea to rate the coverage based on a +/- point system, but who has time for that [return]