My Internet: Jane Manchun Wong
The security researcher can't access TikTok—or resist Twitter.
Embedded is your essential guide to what’s good on the internet, by Kate Lindsay and Nick Catucci.
Most weeks, we quiz a “very online” person for their essential guide to what’s good on the internet.
Today we welcome Jane Manchun Wong, a security researcher known for reverse-engineering the code on social media websites to reveal what new features they’re planning. “Basically, there’s no such thing as a secret beta anymore for the world’s biggest apps … If it’s in the code, Jane could find it,”told MIT Technology review earlier this year.
Jane watches YouTube videos about what she is eating while she eats it and knows a tweet has gone viral when she gets replies explaining the joke back to her. —Nick
EMBEDDED: What’s a recent meme or other post that made you laugh?
JANE MANCHUN WONG: The way Amazon AR View is used for showing how a single AA battery will look in a room is so absurd. I chuckled when I saw it.
EMBEDDED: What shows up on your TikTok For You page?
JANE MANCHUN WONG: TikTok exited the Hong Kong market in July 2020, making it cumbersome to use on a daily basis due to the set of geo restrictions the app has put in place. As a result, I don’t use TikTok a lot.
EMBEDDED: Has your Twitter experience changed since Elon Musk took over? What would it take for you to quit?
JANE MANCHUN WONG: Yes, and it has been chaotic yet entertaining to watch.
If by “quitting” you mean “not even peeking from incognito mode,” I think Twitter might have to cease to exist in order for me to quit.
EMBEDDED: Have you found any good alternatives to Twitter?
JANE MANCHUN WONG: During a recent two-week Twitter pause, I used Mastodon to keep in touch with my internet friends. While it shares some similarities, it is not a 1-to-1 replacement to Twitter.
There are several efforts underway to build an alternative to Twitter. I am looking forward to trying them out as well.
EMBEDDED: What do you use Instagram for?
JANE MANCHUN WONG: I use Instagram to keep in touch with my childhood friends and occasionally share slices of my personal life and thoughts with my online audience.
When the weather becomes unpredictable, I use Location Stories to check for the appropriate layers and sleeve length to wear for the day. I grew up in a sub-tropical climate, and this was helpful when I first moved to New England for college.
EMBEDDED: What types of videos do you watch on YouTube?
JANE MANCHUN WONG: I admittedly watch videos about the food I am eating, and I feel like I am not the only one who does this. Do you ever get curious where instant ramen comes from, and whether anyone has tried making it at home?
EMBEDDED: Have you had posts go viral? What is that experience like?
JANE MANCHUN WONG: Yes—numerous times, for different reasons.
Sometimes it’s the unreleased feature findings that hit the news. When the feature is controversial, people might get angry and become irrational and send me disturbing replies/messages as if I am the employee behind the feature. Clarifying would not help at all since what they are looking for is not the employee, but an emotional punching bag.
On a lighter note, my favorites are the inside jokes, like this (cultural) one.
When I begin to receive replies explaining the joke back to me, I know it went viral :)
EMBEDDED: Where do you tend to get your news?
JANE MANCHUN WONG: For tech news, Techmeme and Hacker News. For news related to Chinese-speaking communities, Initium Media. For news in general, Apple News and Reddit.
EMBEDDED: What are your favorite Substack or other independent newsletters?
by , which covers the tech industry through the lens of a tech worker.
JANE MANCHUN WONG: My favorite Substack is
EMBEDDED: Have you ever been heavily into Snapchat? Do you miss it?
JANE MANCHUN WONG: I used to be a heavy Snapchat user during my early college years, but then Instagram introduced their clone feature, Stories, and as a result, my friends switched back to Instagram en masse. I would’ve missed Snapchat if they introduced multi-device support earlier.
EMBEDDED: When was the last time you browsed Pinterest? What for?
JANE MANCHUN WONG: I checked Pinterest few months ago to see if they are working on any interesting features.
EMBEDDED: Are you familiar with any recent Tumblr memes or trends?
JANE MANCHUN WONG: I haven’t used Tumblr for a long time. But I am aware of the “Two Checkmarks” joke feature that Tumblr staffers created after Twitter Blue introduced its paid verification badge.
EMBEDDED: Are you playing any games right now?
JANE MANCHUN WONG: I occasionally play Beat Saber, a VR game that lets you slash incoming blocks to music. It serves as my workout routine, and it’s a great stress reliever.
EMBEDDED: What’s your go-to emoji, and what does it mean to you?
JANE MANCHUN WONG: 🥲—not everything is perfect, which is what makes life interesting, right? Gotta keep my chin up and smile my way through regardless.
EMBEDDED: Do you text people voice notes? If not, how do you feel about getting them?
JANE MANCHUN WONG: I almost never text people voice notes unless my hands are too busy to type (e.g. doing the dishes) or audio is the only way to convey the message (e.g. strange noises). The audio files use more storage than text messages over time.
EMBEDDED: What’s a playlist, song, album, or style of music you’ve listened to a lot lately?
JANE MANCHUN WONG: I’ve been playing Studio Ghibli instrumentals in the background lately, especially the ones composed by Joe Hisaishi. When the world (that I experience) gets chaotic enough, my mind kicks back into wonderland, just to balance out.
EMBEDDED: Do you pay for a music streaming service, and if so, which one? When was the last time you bought a music download or vinyl record, CD, or tape?
JANE MANCHUN WONG: I pay for Apple Music because it remains focused on the music streaming experience. I was a long-time Spotify subscriber, but switched after their pivot, when many of their new features became focused on podcasts. It feels like they have become distracted from what they used to be.
I bought the ephemeral “Iris” by Phoebe Bridgers and Maggie Rogers on Bandcamp back when they first released the single for a limited time in November 2020.
I thought about but decided against trying out vinyl, due to the size constraints in my Hong Kong apartment.
EMBEDDED:What’s your favorite non-social media app?
JANE MANCHUN WONG: I love Google Maps! It helps me explore corners of the city and restaurants I might be interested in. It is my tour guide!
EMBEDDED: What’s the most basic internet thing that you love?
JANE MANCHUN WONG: The ability to get in touch with family and friends living on the other side of the globe in an instant.
EMBEDDED: Do you regularly use eBay, Depop, or other shopping platforms?
JANE MANCHUN WONG: During the early stage of the fifth wave of COVID-19 in Hong Kong, I used HKTVMall (our local equivalent of Amazon) a lot for groceries and daily necessities.
EMBEDDED: Have you recently read an article, book, or social media post that you’ve found particularly insightful?
JANE MANCHUN WONG: Amy Pang Lai Fong’s book 一個人住劏房：90後女生窩居之道 documents her experience and offers tips and tricks for solo living in a subdivided flat in Hong Kong.
Thanks Jane! Follow her on Mastodon, Twitter, and Instagram. 🥲
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