[Plura-list] Podcasting "Inside the Clock Tower"

Cory Doctorow doctorow at craphound.com
Mon Jun 21 11:27:20 EDT 2021

Today's links

* Podcasting "Inside the Clock Tower": Reading my Consumer Reports story
about an interoperable future.

* This day in history: 2016, 2020

* Colophon: Recent publications, upcoming/recent appearances, current
writing projects, current reading


🙅🏾 Podcasting "Inside the Clock Tower"

Today on my podcast, I read "Inside the Clock Tower," a short science
fiction story for Consumer Reports that depicts a future of
interoperable social media (as contemplated by the recently introduced


The ACCESS Act would require large social media platforms to create
gateways (APIs) that new services could plug into, so that users who
quit the monopoly services would still be able to talk to the friends,
customers and communities they left behind


When people - both critics and apologists - argue about digital
monopolies, they tend to over-emphasize the "network effects" and give
short shrift to "switching costs."

A product or service has network effects if it gets more valuable when
new people sign up for it. You might hate Facebook but still use it
because you value the people you can talk to there.

That's network effects - a mutual hostage-taking where everyone uses it
because everyone uses it. Any attempt to quit means choosing between
your friends and your privacy and dignity - and the more people there
are on FB, the harder it is to convince everyone to quit at once.

But "friends vs FB" isn't a "natural" outcome of the service - it's a
design-choice Facebook made. After all, you don't have to use the same
cellular phone company or email provider as your friends in order to
talk to them.

The only reason you have to use FB to talk to your friends is FB won't
let rivals connect to its service. FB wants to impose a "switching cost"
on disloyal customers who flee to a rival service - they *want* you to
have to give up something to quit Facebook.

The more you stand to lose by quitting Facebook, the more Facebook can
abuse your privacy and commodify your relationships without risking your

It's not just FB, of course. Amazon Prime exists as a means of making
you give something up when you use a rival service (Jeff Bezos said as
much when he created it).

Ditto any "ecosystem" of mobile devices, app stores, proprietary cables
and chargers, clouds, etc; same goes for DRM (quitting Audible means
giving up thousands in audiobooks) and other lock-ins.

Even Spotify playlists - which are locked to the platform, unlike
albums, which rivals can duplicate - are part of the switching-costs
story (which is why Spotify pushes playlists so hard).

That's why interoperability - forcing companies to let co-ops,
tinkerers, startups, public agencies and others connect to their
services; and repair, supply parts and apps for their products - is such
an exciting part of the new anti-monopoly movement.

Every would-be monopolist is always on the lookout for ways to raise
switching costs, and high switching costs enable more abusive business

Interoperability reduces switching costs. It neutralizes the
deliberately engineered product and service designs that make you choose
between staying in your communities or protecting your investments, and
escaping abusive business practices.

That's the story I try to tell in "Inside the Clock Tower." It's all
well and good to talk in the abstract about how a policy change might
work, but science fiction can give us an emotional fly-through of what
it might be like to live in a different technological world.

It's one thing to say, "Interop is how we reclaim technological
self-determination," and another to feel what that means for people you
can empathize with. I'm really grateful to Consumer Reports for
publishing my story and including sf in its theory of change.

You can read the story here:


and hear the podcast here:


and here's a direct link to the MP3 (hosting courtesy of the Internet
Archive, they'll host your stuff for free, forever):


And here's the link to subscribe to my podcast, now in its 15th (!!)
year, and never sounding better, thanks to the kindly ministrations of
John Taylor William, my masterer and editor:



🙅🏾 This day in history

#5yrsago Dieselgate for GPUs: review-units ship at higher clockspeeds
than retail ones

#5yrsago Phones without headphone jacks are phones with DRM for audio

#5yrsago Donald Trump sources $6M worth of campaign expenditures from
companies he and his family own

#1yrago The Case for a Job Guarantee


🙅🏾 Colophon

Today's top sources:

Currently writing:

* Spill, a Little Brother short story about pipeline protests.
Wednesday's progress: 272 words (6274 words total).

* A Little Brother short story about remote invigilation.  PLANNING

* A nonfiction book about excessive buyer-power in the arts, co-written
with Rebecca Giblin, "The Shakedown."  FINAL EDITS

* A post-GND utopian novel, "The Lost Cause."  FINISHED

* A cyberpunk noir thriller novel, "Red Team Blues."  FINISHED

Currently reading: Analogia by George Dyson.

Latest podcast: Inside The Clock Tower

Upcoming appearances:

Recent appearances:

* The ACCESS Act, Consumer Reports:

* Raging Chicken podcast:

* Darts and Lasers podcast:

Latest book:

* "Attack Surface": The third Little Brother novel, a standalone
technothriller for adults. The *Washington Post* called it "a political
cyberthriller, vigorous, bold and savvy about the limits of revolution
and resistance." Order signed, personalized copies from Dark Delicacies

* "How to Destroy Surveillance Capitalism": an anti-monopoly pamphlet
analyzing the true harms of surveillance capitalism and proposing a
(print edition:
(signed copies:

* "Little Brother/Homeland": A reissue omnibus edition with a new
introduction by Edward Snowden:
https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781250774583; personalized/signed copies

* "Poesy the Monster Slayer" a picture book about monsters, bedtime,
gender, and kicking ass. Order here:
https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781626723627. Get a personalized, signed
copy here:

Upcoming books:

* The Shakedown, with Rebecca Giblin, nonfiction/business/politics,
Beacon Press 2022

This work licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license.
That means you can use it any way you like, including commercially,
provided that you attribute it to me, Cory Doctorow, and include a link
to pluralistic.net.


Quotations and images are not included in this license; they are
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"*When life gives you SARS, you make sarsaparilla*" -Joey "Accordion
Guy" DeVilla

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