The Thief in the Public Square

Automattic, the owner of both Tumblr and WordPress, admitted that they’re working with AI companies to sell their users’ creations to help train AI models. This site has been on WordPress for a long time, and moved WordPress installations between hosts at least twice.

This is so hard to take. So much of the web trusts WordPress with their work, and Tumblr users trusted it with their communities and art.

I’ve been thinking about how AI using content available on the web, regardless of its license, to train their generative models is different from search engines indexing our content in order to power their search products (and make money by selling ads around those results).

The difference is that search engines are directories, or maps, that take public data and use it to route people back to the source of that data. It’s a symbiotic relationship, where the publisher of that content eventually gets a potential reader/viewer/patron/customer pointed their direction based on a query that person put in the search engine. The original source of that content is still the destination.

Generative AI doesn’t do that. It gives no credit to their “inspirations” and no creator ever gets a new potential patron. Why? Because the original source is now just a signal that creates a mediocre knock-off based on it, and millions of other works, all created by people.

These companies are thieves in the public square, taking the property that others have created, giving them no credit, no way to make a new fan of their work, and producing knockoffs, polluting the world with… uninspired bullshit.

Can the entire world file a class action copyright lawsuit against these companies? How else do we tell them to make their models opt-in instead of opt-out, and make it possible to remove our content from their bottomless pits of copy pasta.

In other news, I need to migrate my blog off of WordPress, and I really don’t want to.

New Digs

This change has been a couple months in the making and this morning in my pre-caffeinated stupor, I decided I was tired of fiddling with it and trying to make things perfect and just flipped the switch – welcome to the new! Why change? Well, I’ll tell you…

I’ve been blogging for over ten years now. This blog started out on Blogger, and then moved to Movable Type fairly early on, where we lived happily for almost ten years. Then, Movable Type 5.0 came out and I didn’t feel like re-doing everything on a platform that felt stagnant. So, I decided it was time to move to WordPress and save myself the trouble to maintaining templates that were starting to get creaky and stale. I’m not a designer, and I don’t have a lot of time for side projects anymore, so I wanted something that looked good and that would be easy to maintain. I chose Khoi Vinh’s awesome Basic Maths theme, made a quick child theme to throw my OpenID delegate and Typekit stuff in the header, moved some widgets around, and then flipped the domain name so it points to instead of the temporary domain name I set up.

There’s still a lot of data cleanup to do (the content column is a lot narrower than the old one and Jen likes putting up laaaarge photos), but it’s all in the old content and I can go back when I’ve got time later and clean them all up (there were some issues importing the textile posts too).

And since this post lines up nicely with The Ideas of March, I’ll try to post things more often. Our old install of Movable Type was so crusty it was actually painful to blog. I don’t see that being a problem anymore…