It is decided

For our 12th anniversary, my wife and son and I will be attending C2E2, which is a huge show that I attended once as a vendor several years ago. This will be the first nerd convention that I have been to in years where I will actually get to be a fan and an attendee and not trying to hawk books, so it ought to be a lot of fun, although I’ll probably need all of Sunday to recover afterwards. I have important decisions to make during next week now, mostly along the lines of how much money am I going to allow myself to blow at this thing and when I find a giant sword that I want, should I consider buying it, or am I past the point where I should be buying giant swords?

I mean, realistically I know the answer to that, but still.

There will be tons of pictures of cosplayers, of course, and there may be pictures of me taken with a handful of my favorite authors, as John Scalzi, Sam Sykes, and Gail Simone are all going to be in attendance. I will absolutely go meet Gail; Scalzi and Sykes will depend on the length of lines, as we’ll have the boy with us and I feel like C2E2 is not an optimal place to “meet” people who I might want to talk to for more than ten seconds. We’ll see, though.

Finally! A plan!

A brief political update

…several days after writing this, and having spent some time reading on and thinking about Michael Bloomberg as a candidate for the presidency, I feel compelled to inform you that he is now indisputably my last-choice candidate, and the only circumstances under which I will vote for him is if he somehow gains the nomination and I have no other choice. I actually feel like I did Sanders a disservice by ranking the two of them together.

Furthermore, I will cheerfully endorse any number of convention-based delegate shenanigans to deny him said nomination if necessary, regardless of which other candidate said shenanigans hands the nomination to.


One other thought, actually, and this is coming late enough that I’ve already hit “publish” on this post– I have officially given up on the idea that I Know Anything about politics, which is why you haven’t really seen me attempting to make any broad predictions about how either the primary or the overall race may be going beyond my insistence that you cannot declare the primary over before Black and Hispanic voters have had a chance to weigh in– and tomorrow will give us a fair amount of useful information on that account. The polls have been an enormous Goddamned mess throughout the primary, and given that I am utterly unable to understand why anyone would willfully and intentionally vote for the shitgibbon beyond the purest and most undistilled love for white supremacy, I’m not going to be any damn good at, say, predicting which Democratic candidate might be more electable than any other.

I strongly suspect that electable is code for “old white dude with good hair” anyway, if we’re being honest.

Graaaah

I have had nothing to say for the last couple of days; not for any good reason, just one of those things.

By way of apology, please enjoy this picture of a cat.

TikTok talk

So, yeah, I threatened everybody with writing this post yesterday, and as of right now it’s still percolating in my head, so screw it; we’re officially in “my blog” territory here and I strongly suggest that no one bother reading this as I intend to simply dump the contents of my brain into this blank text box and then go about my day.

Y’all might remember a web service by the name of Vine that shut down a couple of years ago. Vine was the Twitter of video; your videos couldn’t be more than something like six or seven seconds long, and somehow even given that restriction Vine was frequently hilarious. It takes quite a bit of creativity and talent to manage to be consistently interesting in six-second bites, and unfortunately I didn’t find out about the service until too close to it going away; I never actually posted any videos (I am funny in certain contexts; seven-second videos is not one of them) but I enjoyed browsing the site before it got turned off.

Enter TikTok. I first downloaded the app … I dunno, a month ago, maybe, thinking that it might be a worthy replacement for Vine. And, well, it’s not, if only because it’s doing entirely different things. TikTok, you see, exists solely to generate memetic content. The interesting thing about the app is that it allows you to copy the audio from any other posted Vine and use that audio with your own visual content. You can also “duet” another video, which plays that original video alongside yours with the audio from the original video; you can add your own text if you like.

What this means is that TikTok is literally the worst earworm generator on the entire Internet. And while it doesn’t have Vine’s restrictions, the videos are usually short, somewhere in the neighborhood of 15-30 seconds, maybe, although most of them are on the shorter end. Huge numbers of TikTok videos are either people lip-synching audio that other people originally recorded or sometimes putting it in another context. It can be hilarious, but when you’ve heard different spins on the “Her Name is Margo” audio from twenty-five different accounts over the course of a single day it’s going to start infecting your dreams, and God help you when a snippet of a song that you actually hear on the radio goes viral. It’ll melt your brain.

There are, near as I can tell, two components to the app. The first is the For You page, which is an endless stream of videos that I assume have been curated by an algorithm and may or may not differ in some way from user to user. The goal of any video is to make it to the For You page, because most people (I believe) interact with the app by mindlessly scrolling through those videos and that’s the best way for any individual video to get a lot of attention. You can like individual videos, which adds them to a list in the app, and you can follow individual creators, which creates a second list that is just of those creators, but doesn’t appear to be sequential or anything like that. It’ll just go on forever, repeating videos if necessary, until you die or close the app. It is terrible for those of us with mildly addictive personalities because it never ends and there’s no way to get shunted off into an article or something that causes you to accidentally learn something and get off the site for a few minutes. Just hours of the same five audio clips repeated until you die.

And then there’s Charli D’Amelio.

Charli is a fifteen-year-old high school freshman who has, as of this exact moment, twenty-seven point nine million followers on TikTok, the current high-water mark for the service, and I don’t believe second place is very close. By comparison, Barack Obama has about 113 million followers on Twitter, a much older and more established service, and oh also he was President of the United States.

Charli is a dancer. She dances. That’s basically it. She has a bunch of short dances that she’s (mostly? I assume?) made up for various songs (or, rather, parts of them) and she does her little dances and that’s the end of the video. She doesn’t speak in most of her videos. Now, don’t get me wrong, the kid is talented; I know she wants to dance professionally in the future and she’s absolutely going to be able to do that if the Social Media Queen thing doesn’t work out for her.

But I’m not just mentioning her for the hell of it. Remember how this site works. It works by other people taking audio from your videos and then either repurposing it or duetting you, where their video appears next to yours. And every single time Charli releases a video literally millions of people record their own videos either doing the dance alongside her, reusing the audio for something else, or issuing commentaries at varying levels of societal acceptability. And a quick look at her feed reveals that she’s done six videos just today. And every single one is going to end up being memetic content in some way or another. There is an entire account dedicated to finding out where she bought her clothes and posting where to get them and how much she spent. (Her family seems to be reasonably well-off, but the clothes aren’t expensive enough to warrant commenting on, for the record, much less creating an entire account for.)

I did a little experiment earlier, counting videos on the For You page and checking how many were either Charli’s videos or Charli-adjacent somehow. Each time I went through 100 videos, which takes less time than it sounds like it does since it only takes a second or so to figure out if she’s in the video or not. I did some of them logged in as me and some completely logged out to see if the app was deliberately steering Charli videos to me.

Out of a hundred videos, the high mark was eighteen having something to do with Charli– four in a row, at one point– and the minimum was three. Which means that even on a signed-out, no-algorithm account a minimum of three percent of the videos this site was serving to me were from one person, on a site with hundreds of millions of users.

Think about that. This kid is fifteen and she is basically running this entire social media network. TikTok, at least partially because of the way it’s built– you could never have something like this happen on Facebook or Twitter because of the way people interact with them, and while Instagram influencers are a thing nothing Kylie Jenner has ever done has accidentally made it into my feed– has unintentionally (?) created a situation where one user is driving an enormous amount of their traffic– either from people watching her or reacting to her with their own videos. It’s nuts. Babygirl was at the Super Bowl and the NBA All-Star game, for God’s sake. How do I know that? Dozens and dozens of videos of her, from enough users that it literally couldn’t be avoided.

I don’t know if this is a sensible way to create a social media network, but it’s certainly interesting.

In which you've been spared

…on the one hand, I haven’t posted in two days, although I meant to today and the day totally got away from me. I was startlingly busy for a day off.

On the other hand, you’ve not had to read the essay/rant (I haven’t quite nailed the tone down yet) about TikTok that’s been rattling around in my head for the last several days, and I think you should probably thank me for that.