Welcome to The Long View—where we peruse the news of the week and strip it to the essentials. Let’s work out what really matters.
This week: Bluesky—Twitter’s research spinout—opens its ADX algorithm, Irish data center electricity worries grow, and Apple employees are the latest to rise up against hybrid working.
1. ADX: Future Federated Twitter?
First up this week: Twitter’s Bluesky company released an early version of ADX—Authenticated Data Experiment. It aims to support federated social networks, with explicit separation between speech and reach. They describe it as “Git, for your social posts.”
Analysis: Doubtful eXcellence—Another Decentralized eXperiment
The elephant in the room: Mastodon (also ActivityPub, Diaspora, etc.) Why do we need yet another federated socnet protocol standard? ob. xkcd:927.
Adi Robertson: Twitter’s decentralized, open-source offshoot just released its first code
The system is dubbed … ADX and is available on GitHub for developers to test. … It’s one of the most substantive windows into Bluesky’s workings since the project was conceived in 2019.
ADX isn’t a single, standalone social network design. It’s a protocol built around user-controlled “Personal Data Repositories.” … Among other things, it’s supposed to let users transfer social media posts or engagement between networks without eroding the networks’ own moderation options.
ADX is emerging the week after … Elon Musk struck a deal to acquire Twitter. … One of Musk’s plans involves “making the [Twitter] algorithms open source.” … Twitter could adopt Bluesky-created protocols, but the two companies could also run on entirely separate tracks, and Twitter has no direct controlling interest.
What problems are we trying to solve that, say, Mastodon doesn’t? Ask squiggleslash:
Moderation … is, in practice, ensuring a healthy debate where people aren’t leaving in droves by removing: gratuitous harassment, death threats, misinformation that puts lives in danger, calls for violence, support for violent movements, and genuine extremism such as members of groups that call for genocide. … Here’s an interesting fact: The actor Wil Wheaton tried Mastodon about four years ago. It did not go well. Almost as soon as he joined it, he was subjected to a constant barrage of harassment and bad faith false abuse reports to his server’s admin. But worse, he had his account suspended by this supposed utopia of no-one has control over everything.
I don’t want to diss Mastodon too much because I genuinely believe the biggest mistake we’ve made on the Internet is to turn our back on federated protocols like NNTP and IRC (even SMTP has become a closed club of sorts now). … There’s a reason us Gen-X kids who were so excited for the future of the Internet felt that, back when federated protocols were the thing.
How did we get here? topaz024 knows:
No one owns email or http, but social networks are controlled by for-profit interests that embolden extremists because it helps them sells ads to enraged readers on all sides. A decentralized protocol can allow us to decouple from these black-box algorithms that are deciding what we are shown.
2. Irish Data Center Energy Use is Way Up
XaaS and other data center load on the electricity grid in the Republic of Ireland has skyrocketed, from 290 GWh in the first quarter of 2015 to 1,058 GWh in the last quarter of 2021. That’s causing significant problems in parts of the country, with investment in the grid struggling to keep up.
Analysis: Celtic Tiger Loses Teeth
Why Ireland? Because of its low corporate tax rate. U.S. companies expanding into Europe often create subsidiaries in the Irish Republic, enjoying language commonalities, “sympathetic” regulation and low taxes. But problems like this might make firms think twice.
Simon Carswell: Electricity used by data centres rises by almost a third in one year
The overall share of metered electricity consumed by data centres has almost tripled in just six years, from 5 per cent in 2015 to 14 per cent last year. … Data centres consumed 265 per cent more electricity in the three-month period between October and December 2021 compared with the three months between January and March 2015.
The surge in electricity use by data centres has come under scrutiny due to concerns about [Ireland’s] energy supply and the targeted reduction in carbon emissions to tackle climate change. [Ireland’s] grid operator has said that electricity usage by data centres could rise to between 23 per cent and 30 per cent of overall consumption by the end of this decade [and] that it will not connect new data centres in Dublin for the foreseeable future because energy supply in the … area is constrained.
“It’s not good for climate action,” [said] Dr Patrick Bresnihan … at Maynooth University. … Allowing electricity consumption by data centres to continue to increase would make it harder for the Government to push policies where it is asking individuals to reduce consumption. … People would see a “mismatch” in calls for “climate justice” … while electricity consumption by data centres was allowed to increase.
So what? Here’s AmiMoJo:
Irish citizens who find their electricity bills rising will be interested in this. The rules are different for domestic consumers and industrial consumers, and may need to change even further.
It’s also an opportunity: Demand for electricity means there is money to invest in generation. Ireland could exploit some good wind resources and develop an export industry. Many of these datacentre builders have net zero policies.
With the view from The Republic, it’s astaunton:
I live in Ireland. … There has been a large increase in the number of data-centres … over a short period of time, and the electric supply has not expanded as quickly. … There have been issues with supply for a prolonged period, with parts of the delivery infrastructure not being fit for purpose.
Therefore there is an issue with supply vs. demand.
3. WTF? Apple Employees Wanna WFH
A group of Apple staffers has written an open letter to Cupertino management, complaining about the company’s magical new work-from-home policy. In essence, the letter says Apple’s policy should be “there is no policy.” With no hint of irony, the grassroots group calls itself Apple Together.
Analysis: Let the Generation-X Eyerolling Begin
Their whiny complaint rambles on a bit, but it boils down to, “We’re smart people being treated like children.” Aww boo hoo, poor babies. Yes, kids, it’s The Great Resignation redux.
Stephen Warwick: Apple slammed over working from home policy
A group of Apple employees has penned an angry letter to the company’s executive team over its office-bound work policy that doesn’t let them work remotely for more than two days a week. … The letter says that Apple’s open-plan offices make it hard to do creative and excellent work because it is hard to concentrate, and says that Apple’s hybrid model offers “almost no flexibility at all”:
“We are not asking for everyone to be forced to work from home. We are asking to decide for ourselves, together with our teams and direct manager, what kind of arrangement works best for each one of us, be that in an office, work from home, or a hybrid approach. Stop treating us like school kids who need to be told when to be where and what homework to do.”
The letter ends by invoking the late Steve Jobs: … “As Steve said: ‘It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and then tell them what to do.’ … Please get out of our way, there is no one-size-fits-all solution.”
Who’s for a colorful metaphor? jleyank has had enough of this ****:
Boiling a frog re. commutes? Turned off the gas and allowed the water to cool for two years. Now turning it back on big time—and oddly enough the frog notices.
People have to be willing to get back into commuting after truly seeing its cost. No clue how many will, but the companies that don’t coerce their employees … will prosper. I did my part and retired.
Tell it how it is, Jason:
As someone who’s been forced back into the office (because “culture”) despite the fact that the rest of my team actually works in offices in other cities and I have to video conference to see them anyway, I’d love to be allowed a hybrid schedule. … About the only benefits I get from being forced to go to the office is it keeps my driving skills sharp, reminds me to shower, and I get free coffee.