From MySpace to TRUTH Social

Donald Trump was banned from Facebook, Twitter and YouTube in the wake of the January 6, 2021 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. His social media accounts were also flagged multiple times for spreading false information about voting fraud in the 2020 presidential election. So banished from major social media platforms, the former President has now announced plans to form a public company that will launch a social platform of his own.

This past week a press release announced TRUTH Social would be his space. It is supposed to beta launch in November with a wider rollout in 2022. In the information released publically, Donald Trump is listed as the chairman of the Trump Media & Technology Group. TMTG would be formed by joining with Digital World Acquisition Corp., pending regulatory and stockholder approval. DWAC is a special purpose acquisition company, which sells stock with the intention of buying private firms, and the release says the corporation will invest $293 million in the Trump project.

The day I read about the announcement was the same day that a friend emailed to say that he discovered my old MySpace account was still online. the two things fit together for me.

myspace 1

"My space" is what Trump wants. A place where he can say whatever he wants without someone else controlling what content he puts out. He tried this before. His attempt to start a post-presidential blog didn't last very long. In June 2021, that blog shut down.  after Trump had become frustrated because there was little traffic to the site. It was not a well-designed site and cost only a few thousand dollars to make (by a company run by his former campaign manager set it up). Rather than give Trump a megaphone, it ended up making his voice and influence seem small and less significant.

As soon as this new venture was announced the media started commenting. CNN (no friend of Trump) gave three reasons why the Trump venture will fail: Twitter already exists; the conservative social space is crowded (and not doing well); and Donald Trump isn't President anymore.

A post on engadget.com gave a more serious technical reason for problems with the site - a licensing error. "The Software Freedom Conservancy (SFC) says The Trump Media and Technology Group (TMTG) violated a licensing agreement when it recently launched a test version of TRUTH Social. The website ran on a modified version of Mastodon, a free and open-source platform for operating Twitter-like social media networks. Anyone can use Mastodon provided they comply with AGPLv3, the software license that governs its code." That would include that you share your source code with all users. At the Trump site's test version launch, it did not do that. TMTG has 30 days to comply with AGPLv3 or face consequences.

I can imagine Trump telling the designers of the new platform that "I want my space online to say whatever I want to say."

On the business side of this, the stock price for DWAC skyrocketed on October 21st after the announcement. I hope the SEC is looking at who bought shares of DWAC in the days before the announcement. And I assume they will carefully note who sells that stock before any announcement that, like Trump's earlier social effort, the whole thing collapses.

Farewell to Baccalaureate Degrees?

graduation caps
Image by Gillian Callison from Pixabay

The University of Al Qarawiynn appeared 12 centuries ago in what is now Morocco. In 1088, the University of Bologna was founded. It seems that colleges and universities have always been with us and many of us expect them to always be the leading paces for serious education and research, launching careers and changing the world.

But enrollments for undergraduates have been declining in the 21st-century. InsideHigherEd reports that enrollments dropped by 600,000 (3.5 percent) in the past year and they report on the "demise of the baccalaureate degree."

Why? This past year the pandemic certainly had an impact on enrollments but the trend goes back further. Quick answers include the cost, outdated methods and employers who increasingly find less value in the degree.

Both employers and students seem to be wanting shorter credentialing than the traditional four-year (sometimes) baccalaureate, and alternative credentials. 

If higher education hasn't kept pace the past few decades with technological and social change, it's not shocking. "Change from 1821 to 1822, or 1921 to 1922, was likely somewhat less frenetic than we see from 2021 to 2022."  Somewhat is an understatement.

In the article cited above, Ray Schroeder asks if higher education has kept up by changing: courses, prerequisites, general education requirements, curricula, competencies, emphases and anticipating and incorporating social shifts in working and leisure. He thinks it means "teaching for the future rather than the past."

He asks, "Who on your campus is leading the charge to update the curriculum, to cultivate alternative credentials, to promote revised transcripting that will turn the process over to the student as owner with the university becoming one of a whole host of participants offering documented credentials? Will your institution be left behind, charging $100,000 or more for an outdated and less relevant baccalaureate while others will be offering less expensive, more relevant, just-in-time credentials that are valued by both employers and students?"