Master List Of Left-Wing Youtube AND Podcast Channels submitted by
***NOTE: after a discussion with the mods I’ve taken out the original note here. Suffice to say the reason I put together this revised list was to add a number of channels I felt had been unfairly excluded. I’ve taken out a few controversial channels to comply with the mods request that i do so, as well as link to OP at his request. I thank the mods for allowing me to keep the rest of the channels I’ve added to the list.
Newly Added channels not on OP:
Tovarich Endymion, BrendanMccooney, Red Star Video, Claudia Brown, SJW101, azureScapegoat, Benji Adam Wiskettes, DemocraticSocialist01, Comrade Hakim, FinnishBolshevik, Bat’ko The Manarchist, ProSocialism, Flea Market Socialist, KnowingBetter, and a few others!
As a socialist I don't believe masterlists should constitute any kind of intellectual property that should be protected, especially in context of a masterlist that is being shared to spread awareness of leftist channels shared with the leftist community. I believe the channels I added deserve recognition. I don’t mind sharing editing with the community — let me know what you’d like to add and I’ll try my best to accommodate within the word limit here. I’ve had to take out a few of the film related channels to make room for more directly politically related podcasts.
I included the Podcast section in post and just removed the NEWS section of the original post, so that can be found in the OP (link in title). Also please note that to accommodate more podcasts and other more directly related leftist channels, I’ve had to remove some more film focused channels. Those can be found on the OP. Thanks comrades.
---------- please give these channels as much help as you can by subscribing and watching their content. We need these things to expand as much as possible if we don't want to entirely lose YouTube to the far-right.
: Explains political and social justice issues in funny and accessible way, utilising atmospheric lighting, lavish sets and costumes and memorable characters to illustrate her points.
Recommended video: Does The Left Hate Free Speech?
: Debunks and mocks the views of right-wing YouTube commentators. Combines silly sketch comedy with well-researched critiques. Also reviews media like TV and video games.
Recommended video: Soy Boys: A Measured Response
: Creates longform, extremely thorough and straightforward rebuttals of right-wing videos. His content is also very researched and relies on some very sly, dry humour. Has also begun making videos explaining left-wing positions on issues such as 'How Privatisation Fails: Railways'.
Recommended video: The Great Replacement Isn't Real ft. Lauren Southern
: Brought to my attention through the comments here. Has done some very interesting series of videos including 'Why Are You So Angry?', which analysed the mindset of the young men behind Gamergate.
Recommended videos: The Alt-Right Playbook: Introduction
: Creates deep dives from a socialist perspective into topical political and social issues. Also does regular livestreams on these subjects with his wife Ashleigh.
Recommended video: What Jordan B. Peterson Is Doing
: Analyses current affairs through a philosophical lens and creates explainers on well-known and important moral and political philosophers and philosophical concepts.
Recommended video: The Philosophy of Antifa
: A journalist and former geologist debunks climate change denial and other science myths ranging from that of right-wing YouTubers like Steven Crowder and Stefan Molyneux to major denier figures like Lord Christopher Monkton and Patrick Moore. Makes an enormous point of referencing scientific papers and consensus on these issues, but addresses these subjects in a very easy to understand way. Perhaps my favourite of all the YouTubers on this list.
Recomended video: Top 10 climate change myths Three Arrows
: Debunks inaccurate takes on history by the right wing. Uses a similar longform format to Shaun's videos, and is also very well-sourced with some of the mods of the Ask Historians subreddit acting as researchers.
Recommended video: Guns in the Third Reich - A Response to Ben Shapiro And Others
: Refutes poor understandings and misrepresentations of Marxism from YouTubers like Sargon of Akkad and PragerU while defending socially liberal ideas like intersectionality.
Recommended video: The Youtube Red Scare: Episode 1 - Does Sargon Understand the left?
Benji Adam Whiskettes:
Excellent marxist channel featuring videos on how Communism has improved womens rights, why the profit motive is not good, wealth gaps, and how capitalism has not created jobs. Noteworthy for video of Professor G.A. Cohen debunking the myth of incentive under capitalism Recommended video
: G.A. Cohen debunks the myth of incentive under Capitalism
Red Star Video:
Featuring marxist film reviews, analysis of the origin of the alt right, reaction videos on political charts, history of the second international, cuban socialism, and an overview of different tendencies, Red Star is an overall great marxist channel. Noteworthy for video “Why The RIght Is Wrong On Free Speech” Recommended Video:
Why The Right Is Wrong On “Free Speech” Claudia Brown:
Feminist and socialist channel featuring a variety of videos on a wide variety of subjects. Everything from Islam and Feminism to response videos, to women’s participation in the workplace, to examinations of the use of buzzwords. Noteworthy for unique perspectives on feminism and capitalism. Recommended Video:
Capitalism DOESNT enhance innovation SJW 101 The Political Gamer:
A channel that does effective leftist critique on a variety of issues, including on anti-feminism, the youtube right, the “skeptic” movement, Milo, Laci Green with wry wit and careful analysis. Recommended video:
Sargon, collectivism and the Skeptic Community Brendan Mccooney:
Hands down the most comprehensive channel on Marxian Economics. Covers topics like the law of value, overdeterminism, etc. in depth with well edited videos featuring videos, graphics. An absolute must for understanding economics, not too dry either. Recommended Video
: Law Of Value: Introduction DemocraticSocialist01:
With well edited, carefully argued videos on Hayek, Pinochet, Mao, Capitalisms Death Toll, Coach Red Pill, Brazil and Venezuela, this channel is excellent in debunking a lot of bad reactionary arguments while teaching quite a lot. Recommended Video:
Mao Did More Good Than Harm (Note: This video is mirrored, the video was taken down from his channel for some reason). BadMouseProductions
: Similarly primarily debunks bad understands of socialism from the right, but also does videos explaining socialist concepts and debunking bad right wing takes on other topics like climate change.
Recommended video: Argument ad Venezuelum
(debunks the idea that Venezuela is a socialist country) C0nc0rdance
: Only uploads infrequently, but does very educated videos explaining scientific concepts such as gender and the genetics of ethnicity from a left-wing perspective. Also does videos addressing social topics from this same political viewpoint.
Recommended video: The Science of Human Races, Part 1 CreationistCat
: The Mr. Plinkett of the YouTube Left. Using absurdist humour, bizarre editing and yet surprisingly great insight and research, the character of Creationist Cat (a magical housecat who was 'zapped through da internet' by God) mocks and exposes the bullshit of the right wing and online skeptic community.
Recommended video: MILO YIANNOPOULOS: EXPOSED! Comrade Hakim:
Noteworthy for a variety of videos discussing everything from the problem with worker co-ops, healthcare, how socialism gives a better quality of life, and one must watch video in particular on the subject of capitalism lifting people out of poverty. As an addendum to that video, I also recommend the Guardian Article “Aid In Reverse: How poor countries develop rich ones” Recommended Video
: Capitalism HASNT Lifted People Out Of Poverty Cuck Philosophy
: Explains topics in moral and political philosophy, does Marxist analyses of popular culture, but has perhaps best contributed to left-wing YouTube by doing long, in-depth deconstructions of the way figures like Jordan Peterson, Sam Harris and Steven Hicks misunderstand philosophy.
Recommended video: A Critique of Sam Harris' 'The Moral Landscape' EssenceOfThought
: Left-wing atheist channel that goes against what has become typically expected from the 'skeptic' community and actually critiques not only arguments from religious apologists, but also those who argue against non-binary gender, trans identities and other LGBT rights.
Recommended video: Jordan Peterson Lies About The Science On Same Gender Parenting For Harriet
: An intersectional black feminist channel which, aside from responding to current events pertaining to women's rights, takes a fairly uncompromising look at the perceived flaws in the movement to effectively analyse how it can be made better.
Recommended video: Candace Owens Is A Bad Actor Tovarisch Endymion:
An overall excellent marxist channel featuring videos on topics about Capitalism, how socialism HAS worked, replies to prager U and other reactionary channels, as well as a number of explainer videos. Noteworthy for video on an analysis of countries with deregulated market economies which feature atrocious wealth gaps. Recommended Video:
A Look at the Freest Markets In The World
Libertarian Socialist Rants
: An anarchist who debunks bad capitalist arguments and anti-social liberalism views. Also does videos explaining anarchist principles and refuting common critiques of this ideology.
Recommended video: Anarchist Commentaries Episode 6: Paul Joseph Watson and the Dunning-Kruger Effect
: The channel of well-known Marxist economist Prof. Richard D. Wolff. This channel is home to exclusive lectures where Professor Wolff explains current American and global economic problems and how Marxian economics can be both a prism to analyse how these problems effect people, and also be a solution to these systemic economic flaws. The channel Democracy At Work
(which actually currently sits at 60k subscribers) features other lectures on the same subjects regarding contemporary failures of capitalism, and is based on a book of Wolff's with the same name.
Recommended video: Crisis and Openings: Introduction to Marxism - Richard D Wolff
The Messianic Manic
: Another left-wing atheist channel. Does short but clever videos rebutting bad arguments from religious apologists and social conservatives.
Recommended video: Ben Shapiro Is Wrong About: Raising Children
: A promotional channel for the Marxist literary publishing imprint of the same name. Uses the books available from their line as a starting point for videos exploring concepts in political and social philosophy and interpreting current political events and figures through a Marxist lens.
Recommended video: The Intellectual Dark Web Is Afraid Of Marx
: Produces anarchist critiques of current political events and explorations of anarchist/socialist history.
Recommended video: Conspiracy Culture: A Leftist Analysis
: Debunks online right-wing heroes like Ben Shapiro, Jordan Peterson and Christina Hoff-Sommers.
Recommended video: Jordan Peterson Is A Fraud. Part 1: Bill C-16
: Known for doing Hbomberguy's music, but between original music videos does left-wing response videos to people like Paul Joseph Watson.
Recommended video: The Kunst Saga | How The Right Wing Views Modern Art
In Otter Words
: Hasn't uploaded in a year but hopefully will again soon since his output has been very underrated. Debunks bad right-wing criticisms of feminism and the trans rights movement. I'm shocked no bigger YouTubers have seized on his discovery that Ben Shapiro has been lying about the trans suicide rate.
Recommended video: Ben Shapiro and the Transgender Suicide Rate
: Very similar to the style of Potholer54, but addressing similar subjects to channels like those like Hbomb, Shaun and Contra. He debunks right-wingers like Dave Rubin, Steven Crowder and Roaming Millennial with very eloquent, long-form responses.
Recommended video: Steven Crowder Is A Fraud | Change My Mind
: Feminist social scientist famous for pummelling Sargon of Akkad when they debated. Does discussion livestreams addressing events and arguments of the anti-feminist 'Skeptic' community.
Recommended video: Reasonable Questions For Anti-SJWS
and Formal Debate: Sargon of Akkad vs Kristi Winters
Maria the Witch
: Covers feminist and LGBT topics. Similarly to Contra (whom she has recently done a video criticising) Maria often rebuts anti-SJW points against socially progressive ideals, having done videos addressing fat shaming, the placement of asexuality on the LGBT spectrum, and the commodification of female beauty.
Recommended video: Roaming Millennial: Hates Women. Hates Facts.
: Has done rebuttals to Dave Rubin and InfoWars as well as a video defending non-binary gender from the uneducated criticism of major YouTubers (see below).
Recommended video: YouTubers Don't Understand: Non-Binary People | Messy Elliott
: Creates very polished socialist critiques and explorations of economic topics
Recommended video: Why People Who Need Redistribution Hate It: The Free Market & You
: Self-proclaimed ‘angry trans woman’. Addresses political topics such as the Syria conflict, debating with white supremacists and the relationship of left-wing ideology with trans women in an entertaining way.
Recommended video: Syria: Many Of These Options Are Bad
Never Speak In Absolutes
: Creates videos that draw on a knowledge of philosophy to critique members of the Intellectual Dark Web like Jordan Peterson and Sam Harris, as well as addressing other big issues like peak oil. Occasionally livestreams with Douglas Lain of Zero Books.
Recommended video: What Jordan Peterson Gets Wrong About Marx, Postmodernism and The Left.
: The channel's description sums it up best, "Non-Compete is a leftist blog and video series dedicates to the principles of intersectionalist liberation, anarchism, communism, and puppet shows." Does videos similar to the style of Peter Coffin addressing specific leftist issues alongside a podcast with other leftists mentioned on this list like AngieSpeaks and RadicalReviewer.
Recommended video: The Red Pill is a CULT
: Creates ‘debunking’ videos similar to the Potholer54 format José uses, and addressing similar topics. He’s done videos responding to Matt Christiansen, Steven Crowder, Ben Shapiro and PragerU.
Recommended video: Ten Horrible Ben Shapiro Arguments Debunked
: Previously focused on reviewing leftist books and other media, but as of about a day ago has branched out into response videos to right-wing lunatics.
Recommended video: Stefan Molyneux Doesn't Understand Anarchism
: Creates very Hbomberguy-esque videos responding to shitty arguments and videos from the skeptic community and alt-right. Like Hbomb he talks to the camera and includes performative comedy bits.
Recommended video: South Africa & The Far Right | PART 1
(placed in limited state by YouTube because the alt-right reported it for the clips from other people he includes who themselves were not flagged)
: Debunking channel featuring videos exposing Gandhi, defending Christopher Columbus, and going after the likes of Winston Churchill. “Now you know better”
Recommended Video: Going After Gandhi: A Perverted Purity Sarcasmitron
: Another ‘debunker’ in the Potholer format. Has responded to Paul Joseph Watson, Ben Shapiro, No Bullshit and Stefan Molyneux in between video game and politics related shitposts.
Recommended video: The Truth About Paul Joseph Watson (For Real) Thom Avella
: Similar to hbomberguy's style but more vlog-based. Rebuts right-wing videos but also has a series called 'Buzzwords from the Right' where he specifically debunks misused terms and slurs used by that side like to chastise us.
Recommended video: What "Questions for SJWs" Taught Me About YouTube Antifeminism
: Anarchist who explains the tenents of his ideology and occasionally responds to right-wing dipshits.
Recommended video: We don't talk about She-Ra
(sorry to have two She-Ra related videos in a row, but this truly is my favourite thing this guy’s done) Xexizy
: Marxist who both promotes socialist ideology and critiques those who misrepresent and slander it such as PragerU, Ben Shapiro and Jordan Peterson.
Recommended video: Different Kinds of Marxism Explained Bat’ko The Manarchist:
Bat’ko is a leftist prominent on leftypol. He makes hilarious and clever songs about IDPOL and Stalin using classic Russian choir songs
Recommended Video: Best Of Leftypol Choir
) She covers movies/films, often utilizes a leftist frame, and sometimes dives into topics related to being trans. azureScapegoat:
Marxist who promotes socialist ideology; one of the most prominent features of this channel is an explainer series of videos on Cuba’s economic and political system. Noteworthy also for a video where he carefully clarifies the distinctions between socialism, communism, and modern communism.
Recommended video: How Democracy Works In Cuba
: Very new anti-capitalist channel. Critiques capitalist arguments ('Capitalist Philanthropy and Charity, why it doesn't work'), defends criticism of the left (Re: PragerUniversity on LEFTISTS and TOLERANCE) and promotes a Marxist praxis through everyday needs (see below).
Recommended video: Why Gamers Should be against Capitalism
Flea Market Socialist:
Creates long and short videos on how to survive capitalism, make propaganda fun, subvert the system, and gives us that pure pure crystalline ideology we so desperately desire; straight to the jugular. Recommended Video:
ProSocialism: Small Trotskyist channel with videos on the bolsheviks, Lenin, and the Russian Revolution.
Recommended Video: The Russian Revolution Of 1905 Aphreditto:
A leftist channel devoted to anarchist and anti-capitalist alternative education that pairs EDM with lectures and audiobooks by historical and contemporary thinkers.
[Recommended Video:]Murray Bookchin (1975) "The New Harmony" - Liquid Drum & Bass Mix Anarchopac:
: A philosophy channel that discusses Anarchism, Feminism, and Marxism.
Recommended Video: Ben Shapiro doesn’t understand intersectionality
- Media essayists and critics:
: Does video essays on film, TV and video games with a very political slant. Analysing the Christian propaganda of the God’s Not Dead series, the preachy style of 1950s propaganda shorts, and what he believed to be the shallow politics of Black Mirror (as well as other less political analyses of movies like The Room and Disney films). He has recently branched out into much more overtly political content, creating videos which refuted arguments in Cassie Jaye’s men’s rights film ‘The Red Pill’ and the videos of Prager University.
Recommended video: The Red Pill: The Strange Art of Men's Rights Activism (Part 1) donoteat01
: Brought to my attention through comments. A fascinating channel using the game Cities: Skylines to illustrate the socioeconomic impacts the urban planning of cities can have on people's lives, both through the development in cities in history and in their redevelopment today. If you're interested in class analysis this series will be perfect for you.
Recommended video: Cities: Skylines | Power, Politics, & Planning: Episode 3: Gentrification
: While not too overtly political, a leftist sense of justice and morality is pervasive in all Dan Olson’s work on this channel. He creates very lengthy analyses of movies and cultural events like last year’s weird YouTube kids video algorithm. Perhaps his most politically potent work though is the video I’ll link down below.
Recommended video: Triumph of the Will and the Cinematic Language of Propaganda
: Film critic specialising in art cinema, but always from a socially left-wing perspective. While this political aspect is clear in all his reviews, often he does do videos exploring politics a lot more overtly such as below.
Recommended video: From Caligari to Hitler: Imagining the Tyrant - Between the Lines Lindsay Ellis
: Like Olson and Kallgren, Ellis started back in the day on That Guy With The Glasses, but has since transcended that prison into a phenomenal film critic. She uses dry humour and widely recognisable pop culture (her favourite subjects being Disney and Transformers) to look at intersecting social and political trends. While she’s often spoken from a feminist perspective, her recent work has begun delving into Marxist analysis in a way she’s very accessibly explained to the wide audience who watch her.
Recommended video: Marxism! | The Whole Plate Episode 9 Jack Saint / LackingSaint
: Formerly did animations, now does video essays with political themes like in the link below. Also interesting is his parody of anti-SJW film reviews 'Rational Big Boy DEMOLISHES SJW Propaganda: 12 Angry Men'.
Recommended video: Sky High: Disney's Fascist Eugenics Movie Pop Culture Detective
: Despite the current cultural backlash to social justice, this guy has somehow gotten away with making video essay after video essay with millions of views criticising the portrayal of toxic masculinity in film and television, while celebrating the non-normative gender archetypes in media like Steven Universe.
Recommended video: The Adorkable Misogyny of The Big Bang Theory Renegade Cut
: Another long-form video essayist, but has a particular emphasis on analysing social justice in film. His work includes critical readings of the white privilege themes of ‘Get Out’, the perhaps accidental Ayn Randian/Objectivist themes of ‘The Incredibles’, and as seen below, the contentious approach to racism of ‘Three BillBoards Outside Ebbing, Missouri’.
Recommended video: How (Not) to Discuss Racism in Film - Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri | Renegade Cut
Step Back History
: A history channel exploring important events from a progressive perspective. Has done videos addressing topics the right tends to obscure or ignore the truth of like, the pre-Columbian Americans (see below), 20th century communism, the rise of ISIS, anarchism during the Spanish Civil War and many others.
Recommended video: The Truth About Native Americans before Europeans Arrived PODCASTS (Find On Podcast App) Chapo Trap House:
Leftist comedy podcast featuring interviews with a wide variety of writers and other prominent leftist figures. Along with film reviews, they also read and make fun of right wing and liberal media figures. They are very popular and do tours. Look up their clips on YouTube and obviously check this one out. The Michael Brooks Show:
Michael Brooks of the majority report’s show which features guests, analysis of politics and culture from a socialist perspective. Entertaining, funny, and overall wonderful podcast. Best Of The Left:
Aggregation of clips from a variety of mostly progressive and socialist radio and other leftist sources covering one important topic each episode. The Majority Report:
Mentioned in the youtube list, this is the actual podcast that the youtube clips come from. I listen every day. Simply excellent. This one I consider a must listen. The Other Washington:
Policy analysis from a progressive perspective. Noteworthy for analysis of minimum wage arguments. Antifada:
Jamie Peck of the Majority Reports podcast. Socialist with interviews and discussion of a variety of intriguing subject matter. Jacobin Radio:
Podcast of Jacobin Magazine -- analysis and discussion of issues from a socialist perspective Current Affairs:
Mentioned in the youtube list; the podcast features unique discussion of a variety of relevant policy and other topics from the magazine editors relevant to the socialist left News From Nowhere:
Corey Pein’s (Live, Work Work Work Die Author) unique podcast from a socialist perspective. The Breunigs:
Matt And Elizabeth Breunig of the Peoples Policy Project carefully and holistically analyze and discuss a diverse range of economic and policy issues. This Is Hell!:
Socialist analysis and interviews on a wide variety of topics relevant to the socialist left. Zero Books:
Mentioned in the youtube list; this is the podcast. Dissent Magazine:
Podcast of the Magazine Citations Needed:
Carefully policy and discussion of a variety of issues from a socialist perspective. Intercepted:
podcast of intercept magazine hosted by the brilliant and highly well regarded Jeremy Scahill, author of Blackwater and dirty wars. Pod Damn America:
the anti liberal pod save America. Features interviews with dsa members, organizers and other leftist activists and workers. Vegan Vanguard (Mexie)
Mexies youtube channel is charming, with well researched leftist subject matter and effective, well communicated presentation. Her podcast follows this trend. Dead Pundits Society:
severely underrated podcast featuring interviews with leftists as diverse and important as Adolph reed jr (the anti Tahnahisi Coates (materialist over idealist analysis), economics, unions, and a socialist foreign policy. Supreme Leap Forward, Mic Dicta
, (Socialist legal analysis) Revolutionary Left Radio:
Great pod from an ML on a variety of topics with lots of guests; did a great cross-over with The Antifada which would serve as a great introduction if you already listen to them Media Roots:
hosted by Abby Martin and her brother. This is Media Roots self described website description: "Media Roots is a citizen journalism project that reports the news from outside of party lines while providing a collaborative forum for conscious citizens, artists and activists to unite." The Guillotine:
hosted by Brett from Rev Left Radio and Dr. Bones, it is a self-described "podcast covering global current events from a revolutionary communist and anarchist perspective." Street Fight:
based out of Ohio, Street Fight Radio, or Street Fight is an American politics and humor radio show and podcast founded in June 2011 and hosted by Brett Payne and Bryan Quinby with anarchist leanings. Gritty and down to earth Congressional Dish:
podcast which is basically one woman going on a deep dive on recently passed bills, Senate hearings, that kind of thing. Lots of good episodes about US imperialism. Very detail focussed. Cumtown:
baconshark316: “not like really leftist but they're good friends with Chapo and guest on each other podcast before. Cumtown is comedy but their politics are pretty left. They just don't talk politics as much as Chapo.” very “dirtbag left” Ashes, Ashes:
David Torcivia and Daniel Forkner discuss systemic issues, cracks in civilization, collapse of the environment, and the end of the world." Criminal (In)justice:
as you can guess from the name, this podcast focuses on injustice in the criminal justice system... a lot of the critiques are quite leftist. Your Kickstarter Sucks:
a unique podcast with a humorous leftist analysis of a wide range of topics as diverse as gun violence apps, bus people, and cultural topics. I’ve heard it’s funny, still gotta get around to it Season of the Bitch:
Very well-informed feminist/Marxist show Economic Update.
: The podcast version of Richard Wolff's weekly show found on Democracy @ Work's YT channel The Dig:
Podcast from Jacobin Magazine Deconstructed:
Another pod from The Intercept Eyes Left:
Anti-war pod from two lefty army vets The Bernie Sanders Show:
Bernie will occasionally drop a half-hour commentary on big headlines Working Class History:
Exactly what it says on the box Even More News:
From the "Some More News" YT channel team Socialist Rifle Association:
A leftist podcast commenting on recent news, with focus on guns and gun laws, commenting on a variety of topics including new legislation, minorities and police. Also they regularly bash Musk, with is always fun. And they are official podcast of SRA, but that's obvious. The Magnificast:
A Christian, Marxist podcast Chuck Boonta Vista Socialist Club:
”It's the Australian rip off of Chapo Trap House” Neighbor Science:
Post-Scarcity Anarchism authors and profit sector business executives Pieter de Beer and Ryan Salisbury focused on political economy, ecology, and billionaires Radio War Nerd:
Excellent leftist foreign policy analysis Novara Media:
Aaron Bastani and Ash Sankar (of “I’m literally a communist”) have an excellent podcast AND YouTube channel featuring videos on subjects as diverse as islamophobia/Sam Harris, Homo-Nationalism and British Politics. Highly recommended Media democracy pod
: like the uk version of citations needed. very good analysis of the media by tom mills & dan hind, who have both written books on the subject for verso. also putting forward pretty concrete plans to democratise the media over here. Discourse Collective:
: leftist podcast analyzing culture and current events from a left perspective with various guests from the left activist and media sphere, as well as an ongoing reading series of of the works of important leftist authors (Prohoun, Kropotkin, Bakunin, etc).
The Black Podcast: Red Scare:
socialist feminist takes on current events and patriarchal norms, with film analysis as well Swampside chats
: the topics can be pretty niche ("here's this left-wing party that split in 1976," "here's this ultra-reactionary who wrote a manifesto") but it pulls off a combination of entertaining and intellectually serious that's p rare IME. Behind the News
: more current-events-driven and less entertaining, but is still probably one of the best Serious Interview shows out there. No Cartridge Audio
: leftist critiques of video games through a literary lens. They hosted the Texas-Christman Video Game Debate. Struggle Session
: reviews a lot of nerd/pop culture media, and often features very insightful views into the world of entertainment industry labor issues. One of their hosts, Leslie Lee, has been on Chapo. District Sentinel:
a podcast co-op (based in DC so you don’t have to be) on daily news, haikus, and analysis from the left. Trillbilly Workers Party
:Leftist podcast based in coal country, USA. Mostly a lot of local stuff about the small town they live in, but they have some good takes, and they need the exposure. BitchFace Podcast
:CRITIQUES OF POWER + WE GOT JOKES" Minion Dead Cult
: “They talk about news stories through the lens of insane right wing Facebook comments. It's a fun time.” Delete Your Account
- Analysis on current issues, e.g.healthcare, gaming industry unionization, evil landlords Scumbag
- Chapo's Felix and some guy that works in PR talk about internet weirdos (no longer active, but has a few good eps) The Dig
- another dead podcast - it's all a bit about Carl Diggler - a dril/journalist character played by Felix, and Virgil Texas as his millenial sidekick Left Out:
: podcast by Paul Sliker, Michael Palmieri, and Dante Dallavalle with in-depth conversations with leftist economists/organizers/thinkers. Left Anchor:
new podcast started in fall 2018 from Ryan Cooper & Alexi the Greek. Discussions between the hosts looking at historical leftist thinkers and applying to current events. SWOTI (Someone's Wrong on the Internet)
: Hosted by Briahna Gray Joy and Joe Kunhilee, two leftist millennial POC. Entertaining and upbeat show that ranges from pop-culture to current events to dunking on centrist libs.
In addressing shortcomings of a major web browser
recently, I tossed out a neologism for a neologistic age: Minimum viable user.
This describes the lowest-skilled user a product might feasibly accommodate, or if you're business-minded, profitably
accommodate. The hazard being that such an MVU then drags down
the experience for others, and in particular expert or experienced users. More to follow.
cases where reasonable accommodations should be considered, absolutely. Though how this ought be done is also critical. And arbitrary exclusions for nonfunctional reasons -- the term for that is "discrimination", should you ask -- are right out.
Accessibility accommodations, in physical space and informational systems, is a key concern. I don't generally require these myself, but know many people who do, and have come to appreciate their concerns. I've also come to see both the increased imposition, and
benefits, this offers by way of accommodating the needs.
It's often underappreciated how increased accessibility helps many, often all, users of a product or space. A classic instance would be pavement (or sidewalk) kerb cuts -- bringing the edge of a walkway to street level, rather than leaving a 10 cm ridge. This accommodates not just wheelchairs, but dollies, carts, wheeled luggage, and more. Benefits which materialised only after deployment, beyond the original intent.
Accessibility and Information Systems
For information systems -- say, webpages -- the accommodations which are most useful for perceptually-challenged users are also
almost always beneficial to others: clear, high-contrast layouts. Lack of distracting screen elements. A highly semantic structure makes work easier for both screen-readers (text-to-speech) and
automated parsing or classification of content. Clear typography doesn't fix all copy, but it makes bad copy all the more apparent. Again, positive externalities.
When we get to the point of process-oriented systems, the picture blurs. The fundamental problem is that an interface which doesn't match the complexity of the underlying task is always going to be unsatisfactory. Larry Wall has observed this with regard to the Perl programming language: complexity will out. In landscape design, the problem is evidenced by the term "desire path
". A disagreement between use and design.
At its heart, a desire path is the failure for designer to correctly anticipate, or facilitate, the needs and desires of their users. Such paths reflect emergent practices or patterns, some constructive, some challenging the integrity of a system. Mastodon Tootstorms
are an example of a positive creative accommodation. Mostly.
On other services, the lack of an ability to otherwise dismiss content frequently creates an overload of the spam or abuse reporting mechanism. G+ comes to mind. If a side-effect of reporting content is that it is removed from my view, and there is no other way to accomplish that goal, then the reporting feature becomes the "remove from visibility" function. I've ... had that conversation with Google for a number of years. Or is that a monologue...
Software programming is in many ways a story of side-effects and desire paths, as is the art of crafting system exploits. PHP seems particularly prone to this, though I can't find the character-generating hack I've in mind.
There's the question of when a system should or shouldn't be particularly complex. Light switches and water taps are a case in point. The first has operated as a simple binary, the second as a variable-rate flow control, and the basic functionality has remained essentially unchanged for a century or more. Until the Internet of Broken Shit that Spies on you wizkids got ahold of them.... And modulo some simple management interfaces: timers or centralised large-building controls.
Simple tasks benefit from simple controls.
Complex tasks ... also
benefit from simple controls, but no simpler than the task at hand.
A good chef, for example, needs only a modicum of basic elements. A good knife. A reliable cooktop and oven. A sink. A cutting surface. Mixing bowls. Underappreciated: measuring equipment
. Measuring spoons, cups, pitchers. A scale. Thermometer. Timers. The chef also
may have call for some specific processing equipment: cutting, chopping, blending, grating, and mixing tools. Powering these increases throughput, but the essential controls remain simple. And some specialised tools, say, a frosting tube, but which generally share common characteristics: they're individually simple, do one thing, usually a basic transformation, and do it well.
The complexity of the process is in the chef, training, and practice.
The antithesis of this is "cooking gadgets" -- tools or appliances which are complicated, fussy, achieve a single and non-general
result, or which integrate (or attempt to do so) a full process. This is the stuff that clutters counter space and drawers: useless kitchen gadgets. A category so egregious it defies even simple listing, though you're welcome to dig through search results. If you can only use it on one recipe, it's bad mkay?
Appropriateness of Single-use Tools: Safety equipment
On single-use tools: if that single use is saving your life in conditions of readily forseeable peril
, then it may well be worth having. Lifeboats. Seatbelts. First aid kit.
That gets down to a risk assessment and mitigation calculation problem though, which may be error-prone: over- and under-estimating risks, and/or the efficacy of mitigations. Pricing risk and risk-as-economic good is another long topic.
Lifts, Telephones, and Automobiles
There are times when you absolutely should be aiming for the minimum viable user. Anything that sees widespread shared public use, for example. I shouldn't have to read the user manual to figure out how to open the front door to your building. Automatic, sensored doors, would be an entirely MVU product.
I've mentioned lifts, automobiles, and telephones. Each is highly complex conceptually, two can maim or kill. All can be relatively safely used by most adults, even children. A large part of what makes
lifts, automobiles, and telephones so generally usable is that the controls are very highly standardised. Mostly. The exceptions become newsworthy
Telephones have deviated from this with expansion of mobile and even more complex landline devices. And the specific case of business-oriented office telephones has been for at least 30 years, a strong counterexample, worth considering.
Office Phone Systems
It takes me a year or more to figure out a new office phone system. If ever. A constant for 30 years. This wasn't the case as of the 1980s, when a standard POTS-based phone might have five buttons, and the smarts were in a PBX generally located within the building.
By the 1990s, though, "smart phones" were starting to appear. Rolm was one early vendor I recall. These had an increasing mix of features, not standardised either across or within
vendor lines, but generally some mix of:
- Call forwarding
- Call conferencing
- Lots of other random shit to inflate marketing brochures
Feature #4 was a major problem, but the underlying one was, and remains, I think, the mismatch of comms channels and cognitive capacities a phone represents: audio, physical, textual, and short-term working memory.
The physical interface of most phones -- and I'm referring to desk sets here -- is highly constrained. There's a keypad, generally 12 buttons (not even enough for the impoverished Roman alphabet, let alone more robust ones), possibly an additional set of function buttons, and a handset, plus some base. Cords.
More advanced phonesets have perfected the technology of including a display for text which is simultaneously unreadable under any lighting conditions, viewing angles, or capable of providing useful information in any regard. This another engineering accomplishment with a decades-long record.
Phones are relatively good for talking
, but they are miserable for communication
. Reflected by millennials disdain for making phone calls
Millennials prefer text-based apps to voice comms, as do numerous tech early-adopters. I suspect the reason is both the state-maintenance and fragility of phone-based communications.
I'm distinguishing talking
-- a longer and wandering conversation with a friend -- and communicating
-- the attempt to convey or obtain some specific task-oriented or process-oriented information. The salient difference is that the latter is very strongly goal oriented
, the former, not so much. That is, a "simple" phone conversation is a complex interaction and translation between visual, textual, audio, physical, and memory systems. It's also
conducted without the visual cues of face-to-face communications (as are all remote comms), for further fun and games. This usually
makes conversations with someone you know well (for whom you can impute those cues) generally far more straightforward than with a stranger, especially for complex discussions.
The upshot is that while a telephone is reasonably simple to use in the basic case -- establish a voice connection with another device generally associated with a person or business -- it actually fails fairly profoundly in the surrounding task context
for numerous reasons. Many of which boil down to an interface which is simultaneously oversimplified and poorly suited to the task at hand.
Smartphones, and software-based telephony systems in general, followed the business phone lead.
Mobile comms generally have expanded on failures of business phone systems in poor usability as phones
by significantly deteriorating audio quality and dynamics -- constraints of packet-switching, compression, additional relay hops, and speed-of-light delays have boosted noise and lag to the level of interfering with the general flow of conversation. Which isn't particularly an interface failure as such (this is channel
behaviour), but it encourages the shift to text of millennials.
I'll save the question of how to fix
voice comms for discussion.
The point I'm making is that even an apparently straightforward device and task, with a long engineering history, can find itself ill-matched to new circumstances.
There's also much path-dependence here. Lauren Weinstein on G+ enjoys digging up old AT&T engineering and marketing and/or propaganda newsreels describing development of the phone system: direct-dial, switching, 7-digit, area-code, long-distance, touch-tone. There were real and legitimate design, engineering, and use considerations put into each of these. It's not as if the systems were haphazardly put together. This still doesn't avoid the net result being a bit of a hash.
An appreciation of why Mr. Chesterton built his fence
, and whether or not that rationale remains valid, is useful to keep in mind. As are path-dependencies, 2nd-system effects, and late-adopter advantages. Those building out interdependent networks after
initial trial often have a significant advantage.
It's also interesting to consider what the operating environment of earlier phones was -- because it exceeded the device itself.
A business-use phone of, say, the 1970s, existed in a loosely-integrated environment comprising:
- The user
- The phone itself
- A Rolodex
- The local PBX -- the business's dedicated internal phone switch.
- A secretary or switchboard operator, serving also as a message-taking (voice-to-text), screening, redirect, directory, interactive voice response, and/or calendaring service
- A desk calendar
- A phone book
- A diary or organiser
- Scratch paper
Critically: these components operated simultaneously and independently of the phone.
A modern business, software, or smartphone system may offer some, or even all, of these functions, but frequently:
- They aren't available whilst a call is in process
- They have vastly less capability or flexibility than the systems they replaced
The benefits are that they are generally cheaper, smaller, more portable, and create digital data which may
be, if accessible to other tools, more flexible.
But enough of phones.
The Unix Philosophy The Unix Philosophy
reads: "Write programs that do one thing and do it well. Write programs to work together. Write programs to handle text streams, because that is a universal interface."
It offers a tremendous amount of mileage.
Exceptions to the Unix Philosophy: Complexity Hubs
I want to talk about the apparent exceptions
to the Unix philosophy: shells, editors, email, init (and especially systemd), remote filesystems, udev, firewall rules, security generally, programming languages, GUIs.
Apparently, "exceptions to the Unix philosophy" is very nearly
another neologism -- I find a single result in Google, to an essay by Michael O. Church
. He adds two more items: IDEs (integrated developer environments), arguably an outgrowth of editors, and databases. Both are solid calls, and both tie directly into the theme I had in mind in the preceding toot.
These are all complexity hubs -- they are loci of either control or interfacing between and among other systems or complex domains:
- Shells, editors, IDEs, and programming languages are all interfaces through which a skilled user interacts with a highly complex system. Whilst remaining in the context of text, this is a space in which new capabilities are themselves created or synthesised.
- Databases ... try to make sense of the world, under constraints of scale, consistency, performance, reliability, stability, integrity, and durability.
- Email faces a vast array of complexities: standards, remote systems and operators, file formats, spam, security, identity, DNS, filtering. And that's just on the technical side.
Within the communications context there are composing standards, workflows, language, characterset, prioritisation, archival, deletion, and more.
Email is, in a word, a hairball. It wants an Alexander.
- To a rough approximation, remote filesystems combine many of the technical complexities of both databases and email: sorting out who and what to access, via what standards, in a distributed context. None of the widely-used technologies is particularly satisfactory, and none of the satisfactory systems are widely used.
It's a CRUDdy situation.
- Linux's udev is at its essence the problem of remote filesystems made local -- the idea that devices directly attached (or made to appear to be directly attached) to a system might go walkabout or show up unexpectedly for dinner.
It is "responsible for providing an abstract interface of the hardware", which tells us what we need to know: When "abstraction" appears in docs, it's a warning that Here Be Dragons.
Simplicity doesn't need abstraction.
- Firewall rules and security generally are attempted as defences against the unexpected. Worse, they're very frequently contingent defences, which is to say, when you need a defence, you need it now. As in military contexts, your basic tools are limited: speed and agility, if you can get out of the way, shielding or armour, if you cannot, countermeasures, if possible. Given a comms context, rules of epidemiology also apply: guard your portals, or ports, with effective friend-or-foe.
Since attacks, particularly effective ones, are frequently unexpected, security is inherently a choatic space, and reflects it. It is highly resistant to attempts at organisation, though the focus on mechanisms, above, may help.
The GUI Mess
This leaves us with GUIs, or more generally, the concept of the domain of graphics.
The complexity here is that graphics are not text
. Or at the very least, transcend
text. It is possible to use text to describe graphics
, and there are tools which do this: Turtle. Some CAD systems. Scalable vector graphics (SVG). But to get philosophical: the description
is not the thing
. The end result is visual, and whilst it might be rule-derived, it transcends the rule itself.
One argument is that when you leave the domain of text, you leave the Unix philosophy behind. I think I'm OK with that as a starting premise. This means that visual, audio, mechanical, and other sensory outputs are fundamentally different from text, and that we need to keep in mind that text, whilst powerful, has its limits.
It's also to keep in mind, though, what the characteristics and limits of GUIs themselves are.
Neal Stephenson, "In the Beginning was the Command Line
", again, offers one such: Metaphor sheer. Most especially where a GUI is used to represent computer system elements themselves, it's crucial to realise that the representation
is not the thing itself
-- map-territory confusion. In fact a GUI isn't so much a representation
as a remapping
of computer state.
Unix, the C programming language, and the bash shell all remain relatively
close to machine state. In many cases, the basic Unix commands are wrappers around either C language structures (e.g., printf(1) and printf(3)), or report the content of basic data structures (e.g., stat(1) and stat(2)). Even where the concept is reshaped significantly, you can still generally find the underlying concept present. This may be more foreign for newbies, but as exposure to the system is gained, interface knowledge leverages to system knowledge.
GUIs lose this: represented state has little coherence.
Some argue that not being tied to the mechanism is an advantage -- that this allows the interface designer
a freedom to explore expressions independent of the underlying mechanism
This is true.
But it gets to another set of limitations of GUIs:
- There is a limit to how much information can be represented graphically, imposed by display, resolution, dot pitch, scrolling, seeking, and time.
- Users hate change.
- GUI efficiency is intrinsically limited.
- GUI doesn't script. Not easily. And most definitely not within the metaphor of basic GUI use, which is how CLI scripts.
Scripting has the effect of constraining, for better or worse, changes to interfaces because scripts have to be updated as features change
. The consequence is that tools either don't change arguments, change them with exceedingly long advance warning, or failing either of those, are rapidly discarded by those who use them due to gratuitous interface changes. The result is a strong, occasionally stifling, consistency over time.
The limits on information density and on scaling or scrolling are another factor. A good
GUI might offer the ability to expand or compress a view by a few times
, but it takes a very creative approach to convey the orders of magnitude
scales which, say, a physical library does. Data visualisation is its own specialty, and some are good at it.
The result is that most GUI interfaces are good for a dozen, perhaps a few dozens, objects.
Exceptions to this are telling. xkcd is on the money
This chart manages to show values from $1to $2.39 quadrillion ($2.39 thousand million million), within the same visualisation, a span of 15 orders of magnitude, by using a form of logarithmic scaling. This is possible
, but it is difficult to do usefully or elegantly.
GUIs, Efficiency, and Change
Change aversion and inherent limits to GUI productivity interact to create the final conflict for GUIs: the potential for interface efficiency is limited and
change is disruptive, you lose for trying. Jamie "jwz" Zawinski notes this
Look, in the case of all other software, I believe strongly in "release early, release often". Hell, I damned near invented it. But I think history has proven that UI is different than software.
What jwz doesn't do is explain why
this is, and I'm not aware of others who have.
This also shows up in the case of Apple, a company which puts a premium on design and UI, but which is exceedingly
conservative in changing
UI. The original Mac desktop stuck with its initial motif from 1984 until 2001: 17 years. It successor has changed only incrementally from 2001 to 2017, very nearly as long. Even Apple realise: you don't fuck with the GUI.
This suggests an underlying failure of the Linux desktop effort isn't a failure
to innovate, but rather far too much churn in the desktop
My daily driver for 20 years has been Window Maker
, itself a reimplementation of the 1989 NeXT desktop. Which is to say that a 30 year-old design works admirably. It's fast, stable, doesn't change unexpectedly with new releases or updates, and gets the fuck out of the way. It has a few customisations which tend to focus on function
rather than form
The Minimum Viable User GUI and Its Costs
Back to my starting premise: let's assume, with good reason, that the Minimum Viable User wants and needs
a simple, largely pushbutton, heavily GUI, systems interface.
What does this cost us?
The answer is in the list of Unix Philosophy Violating Tasks:
- Dealing with scale
- Dealing with complexity
- Iteratively building out tools and systems
- Rapid response
- Adapting to changing circumstance
- Considered thought
- Scalability of understanding, comprehension, or control
- Integrating numerous other systems
- Especially nonuniform ones
Just Who is the Minimum Viable User?
A central question, and somewhat inexcusably buried at this point in my essay, is who is
the Minimum Viable User? This could be the lowest level of system skills capable of using a device, which an OECD survey finds is abysmally bad
. Over half the population, and over 2/3 in most surveyed industrialised
countries, have poor, "below poor", or no computer skills at all
I'm moving past this point quickly, but recommend very strongly reading Jacob Nielsen's commentary on this study, and the study itself: "Skills Matter: Further Results from the Survey of Adult Skills
" (OECD, 2016). The state of typical user skills is exceedingly poor. If you're reading this essay, you're quite likely not among them, though if you are, the comment is simply meant without disparagement as a statement of fact: from high to low, the range of user computer skills is enormous, with the low end of the range very highly represented in the general population. People who, largely, otherwise function quite well in society: they have jobs, responsibilities, families.
This has profound implications for futures premised on any sort of general technical literacy. As William Ophuls writes in Plato's Revenge
, social systems based on the premise that all the children are above average are doomed to failure.
The main thrust of this essay though is a different concern. Global information systems which are premised on a minimal-or-worse level of sophistication by all users also bodes poorly, though for different reasons: it hampers the capabilities of that small fraction -- 5-8% or less, and yes, quite probably far less -- of the population who can make highly productive use of such tools, by producing hardware and software which fails to support advanced usage.
It does this by two general modes:
- It simply lacks the necessary features. I could point to the entirely crippled commandline userland of a typical Android device.
- It actively prevents advanced users from making full use of their devices by restricting access and enhancement. This might be seen as a patronising or Big Brotherish move by vendors, and there's certainly concern over this. But it's also a realistic response to the security and threat landscape of mobile devices operate in, given typical user skill levels. A fact hammered home by the fact that skilled users frequently fail to manage their systems securely.
The dynamics are also driven by market and business considerations -- where the money is, and how development, shipping, and maintaining devices relates to cash flows.
The Problem-Problem Problem
One business response is to extend the MVU definition to that of the Minimum Viable-Revenue
User: services are targeted at those with the discretionary income, or lack of alternatives, to prove attractive to vendors.
There's been well-founded criticism of Silicon Valley startups which have lost track of what a meaningful problem in need of solution. It's a problem problem. Or: The problem-problem problem
Solving Minor Irritations of Rich People, or better, inventing
MIoRP, as a bootstrapping method, has some arguable utility. Telsa Motors created a fun, but Very ExpensiveTM
, electrified Lotus on its way to creating a viable, practical, battery-powered, Everyman vehicle. Elon Musk is a man who has made me a liar multiple times, by doing what I unequivocally stated was impossible, and he impresses the hell out of me for it.
Amazon reinvented Sears, Roebuck, & Co. for the 21st
century bootstrapped off a books-by-mail business.
I'm not saying there ain't a there there. But I'm extremely unconvinced that all the there there that's claimed to be there is really there.
Swapping out the phone or fax in a laundry, food-delivery, dog-walking, or house-cleaning business is not, in the larger scheme of things, particularly disruptive. It's often not even a particularly good business when catering to the Rich and Foolish. Not that parting same from their easily-won dollars isn't perhaps a laudable venture.
The other slant of the Minimum Viable User is the one who is pushed so far up against the wall, or fenced in and the competition fenced out, that they've no option but to use your service. Until such time as you decide to drag them off the plane
. Captive-market vendor-customer relationship dynamics are typically poor.
For numerous reasons, the design considerations which go into such tools are also rarely generative. Oh: Advertising is one of those domains. Remember: Advertising breeds contempt
Each of these MVU business cases argues against
designing for the generative user. A rather common failing of market-based capitalism. Robert Nozick explains criticism of same by creatives
by the fact that "by and large, a capitalist society does not honor its intellectuals". A curious argument whose counterpoint is "capitalism is favoured by those whom it does unduly reward".
Pointing this out is useful on a number of counts. It provides a ready response to the Bullshit Argument that "the market decides". Because what becomes clear is that market forces alone
are not going to do much to encourage generative-use designs. Particularly not in a world of zero-marginal-cost products. That is: products whose marginal
costs are small (and hence: pricing leverage), but with high fixed costs. And that means that the market is going to deliver a bunch of shitty tools
Getting from Zero to One for Generative Mobile Platforms
Which suggests one of a few possible avenues out of the dilemma: a large set of generative tools have been built through non-capitalistic organisation. The Free Software / Open Source world would be a prime case in point, but it's hardly the first. Scientific research and collaboration, assembly of reference tools, dictionaries, encyclopedias. That's an option.
Though they need some sort of base around which to form and organise. And in the case of software
they need hardware
For all the evil Bill Gates unleashed upon the tech world (a fair bit of it related to the MVU and MFVU concepts themselves), he also unleashed a world of i386 chipset systems on which other software systems could be developed. Saw to it that he individually and specifically profited from every one sold, mind. But he wasn't able to restrict what ran on those boxes post-delivery.
GNU/Linux may well have needed Bill Gates. (And Gates may well have not been able to avoided creating Linux.)
There are more smartphones and Android devices today than there ever were PCs, but one area of technical advance over the decades has been in locking systems down. Hard. And, well, that's a problem.
I don't think it's the only one, though.
Commodity x86 hardware had a model for the operating system capable of utilising it which already existed: Unix. Linus Torvalds may have created
Linux, but he didn't design
it as such. That template had been cut already. It was a one-to-two problem, a question of scaling out
. Which is to say it wasn't
a Zero to One problem
And yes, Peter Thiel is an evil asshat, which is why I'm pointing you specifically at where to steal his book. That's not to say he isn't an evil asshat without the occasional good idea.
I'm not sure that finding (and building) the Open Mobile Device Environment is a Zero to One problem -- Google, well, Android Inc., leveraged Linux, after all. But the design constraints are significantly different.
A standalone PC workstation is much closer to a multi-user Unix server in most regards, and particularly regards UI/UX, than is a mobile device measuring 25, or 20, or 12, or 8 cm. Or without any keyboard. Or screen. And a certain set of tools and utilities must be created.
It's not as if attempts haven't been made, but they simply keep not getting
anywhere. Maemo. FirefoxOS. Ubuntu Phone. Hell, the Psion and Palm devices weren't bad for what they did.
Pick one, guys & gals. Please.
The Mobile Applications Ecosystem is Broken There's also the question of apps, and app space, itself
. By one school of thought, a large count of available applications is a good thing. By another, it's a sign of failure of convergence. As of 2017, there are 2.5 million Google Play apps
Is it even worth the search time? Is meaningful search of the space even possible?
The question occurs: is it really in Google's interest to proliferate applications which are separate, non-integrated, split development efforts, and often simply perform tasks poorly? Why not find a way to focus that development effort to producing some truly, insanely, great apps?
The consequences are strongly reminiscent of the spyware and adware problem of desktop Windows in the early 2000s. For the same reason: competitive software development incentivises bad behaviour and poor functionality. It's the Barbarians at the Gate all over again
. With so many
independent development efforts, and such an inefficient communications channel to potential users, as well as poor revenue potential through kosher methods, the system is inherently incentivised to exceedingly user-hostile behaviour.
A valid counterargument would be to point to a set of readily-found, excellent, well-designed, well-behaved, user-centric tools fulfilling fundamental uses mentioned in my G+ post. But this isn't the case. Google's Play Store is an abject failure from a user perspective. And catering to the MVU carries a large share of the blame.
I'm not saying there should be only one
of any given application either -- some
choice is of value. Most Linux distributions will in fact offer a number of options for given functionality, both as shell or programming tools (where modular design frequently makes these drop-in replacements, down to syntax), and as GUI tools.
Whilst "freedom to fork" is a touted advantage of free software, "capacity to merge" is even more salient. Different design paths may be taken, then rejoined.
There's another line of argument about web-based interfaces. I'll skip much of that noting that the issues parallel much of the current discussion. And that the ability to use alternate app interfaces or browser site extensions is critical. Reddit and Reddit User Suite, by Andy Tuba, are prime exemplars of excellence in this regard.
Related Reading A compilation of articles reflecting this trend.
- Google Exec Says Windows 10 S Validates Chrome OS Design Philosophy:
Google VP Prabhakar Raghava said in a recent interview that the very existence of Windows 10 S is “a validation of the approach we've taken.” Raghava went on to add, “What educational institutions have demanded is simplicity. It's a real test tube for all of us, whether it's Microsoft or any of us.”... [It] is only able to install and run Universal Windows Platform (UWP) apps that are found within the Windows Store. Microsoft has locked things down so tightly that Win32 apps won’t even install....
Bootnote Yes, this is a lot of words to describe the concept generally cast as "the lowest common denominator". I'm not claiming conceptual originality, but terminological originality. Additionally:
This post was adapted from an earlier Mastodon Tootstorm.
- "Lowest common denominator" is technically inaccurate. It's greatest common denominator, but that creates a confusion as to whether what's being discussed is a high goal to be attained or a low limit which is imposed. (The LCD of any two integers is 1.)
- "Minimum viable user" plays off "minimum viable product", popular extant Silicon Valley terminology. And is technically accurate.
- Reddit fans of the concept might care to visit /DesirePaths.
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