Back to: "Yes, but what are your credentials, Mr Stross?" | Forward to: Brief absence

Social networks you won't find me on

This is probably an FAQ:

If you're looking to link to me on the internet, this blog is my main presence. And if you don't have my email address, you can nevertheless send me email via the link in the right hand column, captioned "talk to me".

I grudgingly use Facebook, but only because they have a proprietary email system with 700 million users and no gateway to the rest of the internet.

I do not and will not use the following social networks:

* MySpace (I am not a boy band)
* Google+ (One massively intrusive privacy-ignoring social network is one too many)
* LinkedIn (As much use as a chocolate manhole cover to a novelist)
* Twitter (My thoughts are not generally compressible into 140 characters — so sorry!)
* Steam (Despite rumours to the contrary I'm not a gamer)

Finally, please don't invite me to join you on other social networks. Life is too damn short to keep tweaking my privacy settings and answering nosy questions from networks that want to know my inside leg measurement so they can shove behavioural ads for trouser manufacturers in my face while I'm trying to work.

If you want to network with me I'm happy to talk to you in the comments on this, or other, blog entries ...



Well, I hope you've at least got trusted spies reporting to you about those social networks. There's some real fodder for the Laundry universe inside them.


Have you had your voice mail penetrated by NoTW shitworms yet?


Never thought of Steam as a social network, just a content delivery system. I suppose that's because I avoid interacting with others there.

I have a pair of friends who avoid social networks to and refuse to interact with any of their friends online other than by the medium of World of Warcraft. Strange.


I don't use voicemail; it's obsolescent.

(If someone needs to talk to me and I'm not answering, they can text or email.)


Hello Charlie! I have been thinking about this lately, more precisely OWNING my own online identity without all the ToS that are part of using hosted solutions.

I am curious, would you be willing to share how you have set up you web presence? Do you run your own server? Do you utilize a CoLo or do you run it from home?



I don't use voicemail; it's obsolescent. I don't think I can agree with you there: on the contrary, I believe advancing technology has made it useful once again. Auditory communication is still used for a reason: it is fast (if not as reliable) and most importantly takes advantage of an entire separate input/output channel. While you may not experience them personally, I still find many situations where I need to dictate or leave a message but my hands and visual systems are occupied. However, I agree that at one point voice was losing out because it lacked ever more important features of text, such as indexing, low transfer consumption, etc.

Free/cheap, reliable voice-to-text combined with nonlinear storage and interfaces has changed that however. With that available, and thus being able to have voicemails sent to me via text/email and generally get the gist of them, I find voicemail to be of significant value once again. I had totally abandoned (never even bothering to set up) voicemail on older systems, but now I use it once again on my VoIP stuff and find it is a good extra tool to have.


Voicemail may not be obsolescent for everyone, but it's a pig. Email takes time to produce (if it's any good) and reading rate is controlled by the reader. Voicemail is easy to produce and takes at least as long to listen to as it did to produce in the first place. (Email also has some horrid properties, but email spam seems to be mostly a dying infection, nowadays.)

Thus voicemail is good for the bored, and for the busy person with a captive audience. Email is good for a different crowd.

Something analogous could probably be said for most of the social networks -- they each are better for some kinds of people than others. (But, also, I suspect they owe some but not all of their impetus to people cringing from spam, both the email kind and the web site kind).


So if I set up a social network for people who don't use social networking, could I get your endorsement? :)

more precisely OWNING my own online identity without all the ToS that are part of using hosted solutions.

Depending on your definition of "owning without ToS" it may not really be possible. On the base public net, your only real identity would be your domain name, potentially email, and of course any public keys you put out and associate yourself with. The physical layer where that stuff sits can and should change around to suit your requirements. Even if you (probably slowly given the regrettable state of the average network link) keep your server at home, you'll still be subject to ToS from both your ISP and your domain registrar inasmuch as you interact with the rest of the net. To get away from that you'd need to set up a presence on something like Tor, though that presents its own set of obvious issues (a major one being nearly no one will find you).

Do you run your own server? Do you utilize a CoLo or do you run it from home?

Doing a whois/traceroute appears to indicate he hosts with, and it in turn does not appear that they do colo. At his level of need that would probably be a waste of money too anyway, better to just go with a decent VPS.


Scott, I rent a colo box all of my own. Yes, it's a headache -- but it beats the alternatives.


For about EUR 20 / month you can get bare metal + 24/7 remote hands + 100/100 Mbps flat from a lot of hosting providers. With a text-mostly website you can handle a lot of requests, very likely more than enough even for a very busy website.


Doing a whois/traceroute appears to indicate he hosts with, and it in turn does not appear that they do colo.

You are mistaken. Bytemark does a lot of colo (and virtual server hosting)!


I grudgingly use Facebook, but only because they have a proprietary email system with 700 million users and no gateway to the rest of the internet.

Do you now control your FB fan page or is that still a tentacle of your agent/publishers?

BTW, stunned by Rule 34, your best so far.


Ah, well that's why I was careful to do "appears," most sites that do colo have some specific and obvious "colo" tab or pricing structure or something, and while browsing their site I didn't see that (it just seemed to be they'd do the standard server rental thing, with or without management, and VPS). If they do colo and you have your own server, well that's cool too :).


What amazes me is how excited everyone gets about being the first on a social network product (the current hubbub around google+ comes to mind) -- they are pretty much the textbook example of a good whose utility is driven by network effects. Why the hell would I jump ship from a platform that, as much as I vaguely hate it, most likely boasts just about anyone I'm going to meet as a user, for another I'd vaguely hate just as much with a fraction of the users?


I switched to Google Voice for my voicemail -- tied it to my mobile phone's number and it replaces what came with my contract.

Since doing that, I've found that I almost always read the voicemails unless Google has done a really awful job on the voice recognition. Though sometimes those are funny in a mad libs sort of way.

I'm more likely to send a text message to someone that leave a voice mail, but I can't really control what others (especially businesses) do.


I don't use voicemail because the Lemon (a second hand Samsung A200 on Orange PayG) somehow cannot set up voicemail. Besides, it's turned off except when I want to make a call - improves the battery life no end.If work need me I've got a message pager (which works anywhere in the UK (unlike, say, Orange) and delivers messages instantly (instead of after three hours or more (Orange SMS)). I may be something of a Luddite, but the pager and POTS just works.(For everything else there email and the Post Office.)


Amusingly, to me anyway, I use the Twitter RSS feed notifier to learn when you have new posts. It works very well for that, so I wouldn't discount the right tool for the right job.


Note that Twitter is sometimes useful as an RSS replacement for the technically unsophisticated. You can set up automatic reposting of links to your blog posts using something like TwitterFeed, and ignore everything else on it.


BRAVO Charlie. I subscribe to the same exclusionary list. FaceBook and them lot are an abomination - with one exception. Like a number of other writers you know I can be found on Live Journal. After a great deal of loud screeching on the part of the LJ politie they seem to have twigged that we will not accept incursions into our privacy or right to chose our own friends.

ALSO: Just finished 'GlassHouse' - WONDERFUL! Loved it!


OWNING my own online identity

The third enclosure is under way, and we need to be aware of that.

The first two enclosures, of land and of inventions (now called 'intellectual property'), brought great benefits as well as dislocations. It's hard to say what the enclosure of identity will do, though. I hope we don't get an equivalent of the Highland Clearances.


You're not a boy band? Why have I not heard this news before?


G+ has this notification button in all it's properties -- in that new, black toolbar. A "crack" button, if you will. It's evil; I feel like a pigeon in some Skinner Box variant.

Hell of a lot of fun though, that G+. Much finer grain control there over what's visible in a stream and who sees what you're posting. People still do a good job at filtering the Internet for me, and my Google Reader account account has benefited.

Suppose I would rather my privacy be monetized by Google than that metastasizing cancer on the Internet that is Facebook.


I have admin rights on my FB fan page, yes.


Google is a real smiley-faced monster. I remember, as a dot-com pioneer back in the mid '90's, how exciting it was to be able to set up your own web server and immediately feel like a player. I remember when the internet seemed like a wild frontier, a place of freedom and empowerment that required a certain base level of intelligence to contribute to, and was largely corporation-free.

But now that the corporations and spammers have taken over, it has all become too easy. Now, the internet seems like little more than a cloud of info-porn and distraction. To even keep a site running in the lethal modern internet ecosystem is becoming impossible without the resources of a vast server farm. So behind the happy facade of free YouTubing and blogging and twittering, it's looking more and more like the medium for a vast, centralized, corporate-controlled cyber-dystopia to me.


I'm renting the box rather than them hosting my own -- frankly, it's more convenient (and cheaper) that way. But true colo is available on request.


I am trying out Google+, only because their "Hangout" feature appears to more easily do what my friends and I do - have multi-node video chats.

What we accomplish with smoke and mirrors (well, mirrors - the smoke is optional and not always available) may be doable over Google+.

Or not. Nothing we've tried so far has been as successful as our current method. If you pay Skype you can get a multi-node going, so at least we'll have a couple points of comparison.


A few months ago I gave in and joined FB, after letting a friend badger me into it After the third time he had suggested it. It's an easier way to keep in touch with him, since he no longer does e-mail, and does everything through his Droid X. We'd been trading text messages, he to my e-mail, and me trying to keep my replies short enough. FB lets you do longer messages, so that's my main reason. I wasn't sure about the privacy settings (still not, really), don't want to offend the rest of my family--who were already on FB, but I seem to have it set up right. And, yes I get Charlie's feed on it.

btw, I'm writing this on my new iPod Touch and Think Outside Stowaway Ultra-slim b/t keyboard. Going to take some getting used to, and looks like it'll do what I want.


Count me in the anti-woicemail crowd. It takes more time, I have no printed record, and if it's anything involving numbers I have to listen to it multiple times to get the drift.


Paul Krugman notes , “At this point it’s starting to look as if News Corp is better viewed as a criminal enterprise than as a media organization.”
Not on point here. But some may find the live updates on the tapping and hacking of English newspapers of interest.


Tried Google+ for about five minutes then realised just how much information they wanted from me, how much of it was stuff I really don't involved with social networking, and that I really don't want to assess all of my email contacts to see if they are suitable to be my friends, or pester them with invitations that they may not want.

It then proved to be remarkably difficult to shut down the account - in the course of doing so I also shut down every other google account I have apart from gmail, which may not be what they had in mind...

I've got a permanent livejournal account, and a Dreamwidth account that sees very little action, after this little fiasco I think that's enough.


There's only one thing that puzzles me about this post, and that's how a chocolate manhole cover could be of no use to anyone? It sounds indispensable.


Can you elaborate on what you meant by

Google+ (One massively intrusive privacy-ignoring social network is one too many)


You can put as little or as much information into Google+ as you like. The "assess email contacts as Google+ contacts" is nothing new. Facebook and MSN does it. It's optional. It's handy if you want a quick way to add people. You don't have to invite people if you don't want to. It'll let you know when other Google+ people you know have joined so you can put them in a circle then.

And as for deleting your Google account, you may have missed the "Delete profile and social features" right above the "Delete account, Close account and delete all services and info associated with it" option.


Some time its all useless. I have recently, over the past few weeks, tried to contact Iain Banks, rights agent, publisher with a request to use a quote from one of his books in my new book. No reply to emails, or voice mail. Tried to sign up to his forum, but can't. If you see him can you ask him to tell them to get their finger out. Even a FOAD would be appreciated.


Explain Google+ (One massively intrusive privacy-ignoring social network is one too many)

Let me try: it's very hard to not have google track everything you do on the web, and once you log in to G+ you have the full suite of tracking systems running. Use any google product and that goes into your history. Now add the social network part where it knows not just who your friends are but how much you communicate with them and can combine that with physical locations to get a really good idea of who you hang out with and where you do it.

One benefit of Facebook in that regard is that they are not google, so they loose some of the combinational benefits from having both the social stuff and the web usage stuff. The somewhat paranoid will use google for mail, facebook for social and bing for search, but and enthusiastic cookie (etc) cleaner. The really paranoid use multiple machines and a range of different anonymising services through multiple browsers to get slightly more protection.

Personally, once I started using gmail from my phone I decided that the game was up. I've disabled location sharing for what little that's worth, but now my real name is associated with my formal name both online and in google's system, and it's more or less game over. So I've dumped facebook for G+ to at least get some benefit from the loss of privacy.

Some things, on the other hand, are still in little silos in the hope that they don't get scooped up in the big privacy-shredder.


I do the "different services for different functions" thing - Facebook for friends and co-workers, Twitter to follow celebrities and political figures I like, one email (from my internet provider) for general use, a personal email account for business and billing, and a couple of others for special cases (my phone has a standalone domain/email account), and I have a handful of throwaway accounts for spam countermeasures).

It's not that hard to handle this stuff... as long as my browser can handle the noncritical passwords for discussion boards on websites, and I don't lose my list of important passwords for things like my bank (kept separately, but mostly memorized).


But a chocolate manhole cover sounds MASSIVELY delicious!


You want to be careful not to get sand on it, though.


What sort of chocalate??


you had me at chocolate


Am I the only person here who got the Niven reference?

That's worrisome...


I do something similar, with the exception being that I don't use the 'free' email provided by the Internet provider, even as a spam trap.

As for passwords I don't let the browser keep a track, I have them memorised (Okay and there's a backup text file buried somewhere, (or do I mean spreadsheet?)

Like our host I have a FB account under protest but i's as locked down as I can make it and the biographical fields may be a little inaccurate, or just left incomplete.

LinkedIn, well I got sucked in but that's associated to my business account and is not associated to FB or Twitter or other 'Social Media'


Coo, 'e's a testy one, in'he? :)


Twitter (My thoughts are not generally compressible into 140 characters — so sorry!)

Bet you couldn't write an entire novel in nothing but tweets.


Been done: The last person on Earth sat in the locked room. There was a knock at the door.


You said "I grudgingly use Facebook, but only because they have a proprietary email system with 700 million users and no gateway to the rest of the internet."

I'm not sure what that gives you. Do the rest of the Facebook users not have alternative e-mail addresses?

I haven't used any social networking. I did try to send an e-mail to Jillette Penn, but failed to find his e-mail address. Apparently I need a twitter account to reach him. Odd, for a person who is as public as him.

Someone in the business of selling his work to the public needs to publicize himself. But lots of people have inflated ideas on how interesting they are.


One thing that our computer technology is developing, is smart filters. Some of this is good. We want people to phone us, not our phone number. And we want the phone to establish which phone calls are worth interrupting a meeting with our boss, or our drive on the freeway.

But some of it is bad. Google guesses what we want to see, and avoids showing us what it thinks we don't want to see. It is easy to extend this kind of filtering to undesirable ends.


Do the rest of the Facebook users not have alternative e-mail addresses?

Astonishingly, many of them don't. They use FB for everything and don't do conventional email at all.


Remember when we were threatened with putting our mistakes on "our permanent record"?

That's becoming ubiquitous. We choose to put everything out on digital media. It isn't just Weiner, but most kids (who say things they won't want on their records when they apply for jobs someday in the future).


I'd never considered Steam a social networking site but on closer inspection it's just that I've got every last bit of the social stuff turned off :)


Dirk Bruere @ 46 Shouldn't that be: the last MAN on Earth sat on a chair, there was a knock on thdoor ... (its a woman, of course ....)


As a twitter alternative, there's always Woofer which has a minimum of 1400 characters...

The social networks I'm most active on are reddit and the StackExchanges(haskell/math/physics/scifi), those are content/subject-centered and (in the case of the SEs) fairly tightly policed so there's not too much inanity.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: bring on Web 3.0 where my computer takes care of the social networking, so I can get away from the computer and meet with real friends!


Yes, that's what I thought when I was writing it, but decided my version was creepier


If I have to be in a CIA database, I'll pick the one Google runs. The boy CEO doesn't impress me much... the only way he could would be if he managed to hack his own head off and mount it on a spike, all by himself. That'd be impressive.

Google can and they will do better than Zuckeberg, besides, everything CIA really needs to know about me is already apparent in my search history and Gmails. And proper social networks are convenient.

Once a better, OS and more privacy friendly social network exists, I'll move there.

Wile social networks may give intelligence agencies(I'm willing to bet money that over time, it'll become apparent intelligence agencies have backdoor access to major social networks) and retailers interesting information, rveryone can wear many faces and switch between them as they see fit. Doesn't take much smarts, doing that.

"Owning identity" That's laughable. Social networks can only benefit from what we are willing to give them. Once you take your business elsewhere, they can't profit.


A timely subject, from the "Scenes From A Multiverse" webcomic...


You're not the only one who got the Niven reference (Chocolate Covered Manhole Covers).

In other news, either Randal Munroe has read Rule 34 recently or today's xkcd has the kind of coincidental connection to the novel that is itself a reference to the story. I salute our memetic overlords.


No, you're not. (In fact, I immediately thought "Shouldn't that be a chocolate covered manhole cover?")


I expect that in the long run, the result of so much information about peoples' youthful indiscretions being on the internet will be a great deal less hypocrisy about such things: a realisation that the fact someone took drugs or committed minor offences as a teenager is really pretty irrelevant to their suitability for employment in their late 20s or whatever. This article suggests that even now, its not as if employers are scouring the web for evidence of drunken silliness or whatever - and its really not all that difficult to lock down social network profiles so that they're not readily visible in this way.


Ironically enough, I only got to this blog post via the @antipopeRSS Twitter feed

You may not use twitter directly, but you're in its orbit

Shouldn't that be a chocolate covered manhole cover?

Depends on the chocolate. Properly tempered dark chocolate should have enough strength to hold shape, but if you're just using candy-grade milk chocolate, you'll need to have a real cover as a form to take most of the strain. Even the good stuff won't allow you to stand on the manhole cover of course.


Trying to find the blog that was discussing chemical reactions he wouldn't try in his laboratory...thought it was triggered by something I read on Accelerando about a Hitler V-program fuel accident with a fluro-oxide compound which went very wrong involving the reagents burning through a foot of concrete flooring

Help for the slightly clueless requested...

-- Andrew

PS Of course we all recognised the Niven reference


Did you mean this one?

Though the rocket fuel was something different, I think, maybe that one:

Oh, the joys of a misspent youth come up, aluminothermic reduction of manganese dioxide, anyone?


Ok, I liked the chocolate manhole cover posts.
There was talk of IQ here. In the Larry Niven story (What do you do with a Chocolate Manhole Cover?) a man seeming robot was going to parties and giving IQ tests. That was one of the questions.
I've now checked the book store and there is hardly any Niven. So, are they only printing or stocking new stuff?


I honestly believe there is a large percentage of those that use "farcebook" secretly wish that it actually had a "hate" button to go along with the "like" button.

If one were to give the website an honest critique, it's usability is poor, it's design is awful, and it's "clunky" term for poor programming resulting in long waits for page loading. Once again, the lowest common denominator theory has struck and won out again. Much to everyone's detriment. Yes, we now have the Microsoft of Social Networks...


"Do you have a license for this planet, sir-madam-or-neuter?"


Spot on, thanks!

-- Andrew


yeah I'm on googl+ and I can't figure out exactly what makes it so special especially since, you know, I have like 10 friends on it while everyone else I know is still FBing


No. I got it.


Huh -- definitely had you pegged for a gamer between Pimpf and Halting State. All the more impressive knowing they were based on research rather than direct experience. Good show.


About voicemail, I was shocked when I moved to Bulgaria and found out that nobody uses voicemail or answering machines here. The technology is available, but nobody buys it. Now (three years later), I have a hard time remember why my phone ought to record messages. I Either someone calls me and I talk to them, or I can't, and I return the call later.


While a privacy-enhancing social network like Diaspora doesn't suit the publicity needs of OGH, what do people think of it?

I've just installed a Diaspora pod to play with, and while bare-bones, it looks like works. But do you think it has a future? if not, why not?


Also The Dinosaur by Augusto Monterroso:

"When he woke up, the dinosaur was still there."

You do know what a novel is, don't you?


The local chocolaterie is closing and I bought some on sale. I'll really miss them -- I didn't get things from them so often, but I frequently gave the chocolate as gifts.


Computer games: no, not much. RPGs: I played a lot in my teens, some decades ago.


I reckon that if you have a clear record, you'll be assumed to be one of the powerful and privileged.


Charlie: Not even Quora? You might like Quora.


Never heard of it; not interested.

Social networks do not generally exist for my benefit.

They exist because some bright spark thought up an idea for how to monetize other folks' interpersonal relations, and is aiming for an IPO or a take-over by Google. In general, if you're not paying for such a service in cash you're paying for it in some other manner. Usually by providing eyeballs on advertising -- something I detest.

Ad-supported social networks have an incentive to attract targets for their advertising, and they do this by hacking the human social behavioural instinct -- by delivering an experience that provides a sense of interaction with an ersatz kinship group -- which is gratifying and ensures the subjects will keep coming back.

I've been using social networks of some sort since about 1990, in the shape of USENET (which was non-monetized until the spammers discovered it) and CIX (which cost money, but was honest and up-front about it). I am easily addicted to social grooming (see also this blog, which is in effect my own private social network system). It eats time, and I don't want to feed it any extra remaining hours -- time that can be better devoted to my own purposes.

So I am quite happy as I am without being monetized for some foreign start-up founder's benefit, KTHXBYE.


is the Charles Stross that's on twitter you sitting on the name, or some other Charles Stross that doesn't use Twitter?


Facebook especially.

when I cancelled my own account they presented me with a final page saying something like "NO! don't GO! Look at all the people who will miss you!" followed by pictures of of people from my friends list who use the service for nothing but posting pictures of their cats.

it felt like trying to end an unhealthy and obsessive romantic association.

then I realised...The two are really quite close.


There is one good reason for using twitter- every day there's something amusing posted by someone.

For example

"Let's start a flashmob: When the space shuttle returns, everyone dress up up in Ape outfits."


On which note, invariably awesome science journalist Ed Yong noted on twitter the other day that:

Rebekah Brooks has resigned! Sky bid dropped! NotW extinct! Only four horcruxes left to go and Murdoch will be mortal again!

You misspelt 'inane'.


Nobodies ever told me why USENET HAD to be monetized. Couldn't we have just kept going and told the the spammers to go to hell?


Twitter is useful as a blog update broadcast system, useful for those fans who don't know how to use RSS (which combined with an iPad and Flipbook is awesome).

Just set it up an ignore it, afterall I say that "Twitter is a great way of talking to yourself on a global basis!"

Somebody mentioned Google et al filtering content down to your interests. This will become a growing issue - where unwanted news/content is considered spam. Imagine 2 people living side by side with completely different perceptions of the world opposite, say, from the past where most the population watched the 10 o'clock news.



About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Charlie Stross published on July 12, 2011 4:25 PM.

"Yes, but what are your credentials, Mr Stross?" was the previous entry in this blog.

Brief absence is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Search this blog