Verification

I’ve know I’ve said this before but I’ve generally decided to take a more consistent approach to writing. I haven’t been particularly active on this front; not necessarily due to lack of time or content ideas, but rather I’m simply one of those people who finds it very difficult to do things that I consider to be routine. It’s just not who I am.

But like I said, I’m going to give it another honest shot and to achieve this goal, I’m going to take a page from Fred Wilson and try to form some habits around it. I almost always up eating lunch at my desk, so instead of randomly perusing ESPN, why not take some time and jot down some thoughts, as incomplete as they might be? I have to be fair with myself in this regard and recognize that to achieve the kind of volume I want, I’ll have to not be as perfectionist as I usually am and maybe even adhere to a consistent set of themes for the content. So with that in mind, here’s my first attempt at a consistent structure:

Monday: Realistic Things Someone Should Build
Tuesday: Crazy Ass Ideas
Wednesday: Sports
Thursday: Fly or Die
Friday: Fearless Prognostications

So without further adieu, here is my first shot at forging a routine and writing more, and it’s a semi-realistic thing that someone – not me – should build. (And forgive the choppiness of the segue; they were originally written as two separate posts.)


I’m sure I’m not alone in saying this, but I want this election to be over. I’ve wanted it to be over basically since it started, and I’m incredulous that there could possibly be any undecided voters at this point. Regardless of your politics, I think at this point you’ve generally chosen your side and likely dug your heels in super deep against the opposition. I can’t name really a single positive attribute about the candidate I’m not voting for, and sadly I’m sure there’s a reciprocal feeling among the other half of the population.

One of the more distasteful aspects of the election for me has been the rise of super partisan, extremely misleading echo chamber media. While I don’t doubt a big swath of it is simply opportunistic scumbags exploiting the worst in people, you shouldn’t minimize or ignore the impact it has. It’s simply a matter of fact that this election features two very, very polarizing candidates, and their faults are exacerbated by an ever-present constant news cycle and the rise of easily shareable memes as a means of disseminating political opinion. In this vacuum of nearly infinite content demand, it’s no surprise that this echo chamber has formed, dramatically wounding discourse and the general civility of the electoral process.

Whether you visit Breitbart and their ilk as a check-in to see what the other side says or as a trusted source of unbiased news, you’ll see a pattern form very quickly. “Confident Trump Sprints Into Blue States”. “Border Deluge The Worst We’ve Ever Seen”. “Early Numbers Show Trump On Warpath To Victory”. And on and on it goes.

It’s worth noting at this point that Breitbart, relatively speaking, is much more established and polished than many of the outlets on their ideological side. There’s nothing inherently wrong to speaking of a population you’re self-selecting for and presenting your opinion from that point of view. When it crosses over to something more vicious or blatantly untrue or abusive, that’s where the issues start to rise, and ironically it’s that type of content that are more likely to see on Facebook. The more incredible the headline, the more it gets shared, and you better believe these publishers know it: why else would a headline like “ALERT – WikiLeaks Exposes THIS Shocking Hillary Secret, ARREST HER!” even exist?

It’s a post-fact world, which is sad in and of itself, and the more I see friends and family of mine from back home in Pennsylvania pulled into it, the more I try to figure out what a solution might look like. It’s difficult because on one hand, I don’t want to censor anyone and I certainly don’t want to stop someone from publishing simply because I may ideologically disagree. However, I think it’s reasonable to provide some level of consumer protection against unverified sources, the more cynical operations that are exploiting the more base instincts of partisan voters, the ones who are simply stoking the flame in order to get cheap page views.

The more I think about this problem, the more I get hung up on the idea of “unverified”. It’s an analogous situation to Twitter; if I were to start posting as if I were Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury (And I did as recently as 2009, but that’s a separate post), people might believe me solely on the basis of how I was presenting myself. After all, I *say* I’m Marc-Andre Fleury, why would I be making it up? The simple solution of the verified profile on Twitter mostly solved this problem; people should have no reason to believe that it’s actually Fleury unless the blue check mark appears next to his profile.

This situation also analogous to site verification through SSL/TLS, which provides consumers protection against fraud and ensuring trust in any transaction the user and a third-party involve themselves in. This SSL security is managed in the form of a digital certificate that is managed by a trusted authority, so given that, why isn’t it intrinsically possible to ask the same of publishers? If you are truly a publisher that is operating earnestly then getting verified should be something you’d welcome, for the same reason that public figure welcome the verification process on Twitter.

I’m fully cognizant of course that this concept ultimately is somewhat subjective, in the sense that at some point you’d have to have a human being determining whether or not someone is worthy of this level of verification. Embedded in that subjectivity is the potential for political bias, unwitting censorship, and a whole host of other issues that Twitter itself is trying to grapple with. Still, I think you’d be hard-pressed to say that the state of verification/authority/trust amongst notable voices on Twitter is somehow worse than it is on the open web, and given the ever increasing number of these super-partisan publishers, I think taking a firm approach is probably the right step.


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