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Too many people have peed in the pool (2016) (stephenfry.com)
151 points by oli5679 121 days ago | hide | past | web | 121 comments | favorite

1. There is a 4chan meme that goes approximately like this:

Newbie: "Remember the time when 4chan was good?"

Veteran: "4chan was never good."

"4chan" can be easily replaced with "Twitter" or "The Internet" here.

2. There's a universal tendency for people to reminisce fondly about the good old days and contrast them with the ostensibly bad present. It has nothing to do with the truth. It is simply a syndrome of getting old. People were doing it 3000 years ago.

> 2. There's a universal tendency for people to reminisce fondly about the good old days and contrast them with the ostensibly bad present. It has nothing to do with the truth. It is simply a syndrome of getting old. People were doing it 3000 years ago.

I'm afraid that whilst there's some truth in what you've said, I think you're far wide of the mark here.

It's not about getting old. It's about the fact that, and I wouldn't pretend to understand the mechanics here, for whatever reason when too many people get involved in something it changes. It might get better, or it might get worse, or it might get better and then get worse, or whatever.

In this case I think the point that twitter, or whatever, somehow gets "spoiled" is perhaps valid. I would argue I've seen a similar thing with facebook. It used to be people posting updates about themselves and was a good way to keep up with people; now it's largely people sharing pre-created content - 10th rate jokes and memes, political petitions, news - real or otherwise - from a parasitic ecosystem of sites predicated upon social sharing.

That spoiling can manifest itself in a variety of ways, and can take either a short or a long time to happen. The point is that a large influx of newcomers into an existing community, business, special interest group, or whatever, can radically alter the dynamics of that group in a way that is unpredictable, and sometimes not good.

And I apologise for the slightly rambling nature of this comment - haven't had time to edit it into shape.

> 2. There's a universal tendency for people to reminisce fondly about the good old days and contrast them with the ostensibly bad present. It has nothing to do with the truth. It is simply a syndrome of getting old.

Nothing to do with the truth? Maybe in your cases, but in others it very much does. In the good ol' days Democrats and Republicans weren't as hostile and unwilling to work together as they are now. In the good ol' days it used to snow way more in some places than it does now. In the good ol' days many places were less polluted than they are now. In the good ol' days people had to learn to actually ask each other out instead of swiping right on their phones. In the good ol' days businesses had longer-lasting relationships with their employees and didn't view them as disposable goods. Yeah, totally nothing to do with the truth, just people imagining things.

Maybe that's your perspective, but...

LA is way less polluted than it used to be. People used to go to speed dating events where they have a pool of maybe 15 people who might be compatible. Democrats and Republicans both used to be racist and sexist. The weather in New England is much more pleasant in winter than it used to be. These days it isn't a black mark against your name if you've changed jobs 3 times because you wanted to try something new.

All about perspective. If you want to reminisce, go ahead, but there are two sides to the coin.

(a) I didn't say "everywhere", and I wasn't talking about LA. I'm glad you lived somewhere where that wasn't the case. The world is bigger than LA, or than the United States for that matter.

(b) My point was not that the good ol' days were paradise and we're all rotting in hell now. My point was that old people are not necessarily making $h!1 up in drawing comparisons with the good ol' days, in contrast with what the parent said. I thought this was obvious but evidently not.

Of course they're not making shit up, but they do have a selective memory, which was GPs point that you seemed to miss.

If things are distributed between bad and good, it doesn't matter how that distribution changes over time if the bad things from the past are forgotten in the comparison. It is still dishonest.

You are implying "the bad things from the past" have an objective weight. They could be insignificant, and in someone's eyes the past is truly "good".

I think the specific psycho phenomenon is that if there were 5 good things and 5 bad things about dating in the 50s, we generally remember the good things and talk about the good things. Now with tindr there's also 5 good and 5 bad and we say "wow all these bad things suck, back then it was just [the 5 good things that they remember]".

Remembering the good vs the bad probably aligns with someone being naturally upbeat or sad (glass full vs half-full personality).

Also I'm skeptical of that Democrats and Repubs line. In the good old days they got into fist fights on the congress floor.

Yes, people don't tend to reminisce about bad things. They prefer to leave them behind and focus on maximizing the good parts. That's normal, expected, generally healthy, and also not what the parent comment was saying.

As for the last part, it's hard to tell if you're referring to the 1800s or the 1900s as the "good old days" where Congressmen got into fist fights, but anyway, some digestible material: http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2014/06/12/polarized-po...

> They prefer to leave them behind and focus on maximizing the good parts. That's normal, expected, generally healthy, and also not what the parent comment was saying.

The "4chan parable" is saying that though.

And I was not disagreeing with it.

I was addressing part (2) of that comment.

> In the good ol' days businesses had longer-lasting relationships with their employees and didn't view them as disposable goods.

This is the kind of thing the GP is talking about, and you've fallen into the trap. The rise of OH&S is a clear counterpoint to your statement here. For example, about a hundred people died during the building of the Hoover Dam. Such a death rate would be unthinkable in the modern era.

> In the good ol' days people had to learn to actually ask each other out instead of swiping right on their phones.

And if you were gay or even asexual, you had to pretend that you weren't or you'd be ostracised. Even to the point of marrying someone straight and making both of you miserable. And if you were pregnant, you were expected to hide yourself from public view, because being visible pregnant used to be distasteful.

> In the good ol' days many places were less polluted than they are now.

Good old weasel word 'many'. Many places are less polluted now than they were then.

The point is that you're cherrypicking just the good stuff, which is exactly what the GP is talking about. Few people would actually be better off if you turned the clock back 40 years, especially women and minorities.

There CAN be clean & neat progress (sorry for the caps) without the garbage. It's just that people don't care to make it nice and clean, they prefer to built on the momentum, they prefer to make it quick and dirty and if/when necessary tear it down and start again.

Twitter is like the planet. Dying. Slowly. But. Steadily.

Stephen is a big boy and can make big boy choices. I still don't get the infatuation with the social media, unless your livelihood depends on it (e.g. marketing your products/services, or plain and simple you ARE facebook or twitter or ... that make money out of these products)(products = people).

Except for the fact that both sites (twitter and 4chan) have both become substantially worse over the years.

In both cases, a lot of it has to do with increased censorship. A large number of people left 4chan for 8chan after moot started engaging in fairly aggressive political censorship. Who knows what his motivation was - maybe an effort to appeal more to advertisers, maybe a change in beliefs about freedom of expression - either way, the effect was the same. There was a big exodus to other chan sites.

Twitter has a similar censorship problem; many of the twitter accounts I followed, which were mildly offensive but nothing compared to the worst of the site, were silently banned without justification. The only connection I can find between them is that they were political in a way Twitter didn't like. Unfortunately, twitter is too big for there to be an effective exodus, so the whole internet is just worse off.

Not all nostalgia is misplaced. The internet is unquestionably changing, and the trend seems to be that as a system becomes more popular, it becomes more hostile to viewpoints too far from its median. Reddit, twitter, Facebook, etc. have all been extremely ban-happy in recent years, moreso than ever before.

>Not all nostalgia is misplaced. The internet is unquestionably changing, and the trend seems to be that as a system becomes more popular, it becomes more hostile to viewpoints too far from its median

That's not a current trend, that's just statistics. The larger the sample is, the closer it's median is to the median of the whole set of data. It was always this way.

However, people can still build their own smaller on-line communities. With sites like Reddit, it's easier than even. You have r/TumblrInAction, r/ShitRedditSays, and everything in between.

> It is simply a syndrome of getting old.

I think there is more than just this: any community/social network that grows from thousands to millions of users has to make changes in order to scale (for example, changes in the moderation). Whatever they are, these changes are likely to be a disappointment for the oldest users who join the community for what it was in the first place.

Another plausible explanation is that, as these communities become more popular, the goal of the companies supporting them often shifts from the original goal of creating a nice and attractive community, to a new more ambiguous goal of keeping the growth high while generating profit (thus adding ads, tracking etc.)

> has to make changes in order to scale

Often there's more to it: early adopters of anything tend to be of a different temperament than the people who come after.

The thing is 4chan's raison d'etre is to be kinda shitty (or rather, a bit of a rough wasteland).

Twitter could clean itself if they weren't so afraid of the wannabe Nazi crews + follower bots, and the effects cleaning up would have on their already bad-looking user metrics.

Im not convinced there isn't a universal tendency for communities to get worse over time.

There is, but it has more to do with the people joining later and not understanding/respecting the unwritten laws of the community.

Here's an interesting essay about this effect: http://shirky.com/writings/group_enemy.html

There isn't. There's a tendency to paint the past in gold.

“I'm 65 years old. Everyday the future looks a little bit darker. But the past, even the grimy parts of it, well, it just keeps on getting brighter all the time.” ― Alan Moore, Watchmen

>> Im not convinced there isn't a universal tendency for communities to get worse over time.

> There isn't.

Cool, I'm sure you managed to convince him now.

They either grow (and change) or die. For those who liked the way they startedn, both of these.tend to look like forms of “get worse”, which is, of course, entirely subjective.

I recommend Midnight in Paris by Woody Allen for a powerful depiction of this "syndrome".


Perhaps. But there is some truth about signal to noise ratio. Just like us "old-timers" saw happening with email (spam and on mailing lists) and later on forums. The flood of average – both posters and responses – is drowning out value. Hollow emotions (and offence) are winning from uncoloured intelligence and rationality.

There's a tipping point, and I guess Twitter has gone over it.

"Getting old" is perhaps a bit prejudicial in this case. I think a better observation is that the novelty is lost for the individual, and this is true about virtually anything -- that show they liked, the club they went to, the activity they took part in, a forum on the internet: Once it loses novelty, the ugly parts become more obvious, and for those that are on the edge of benefit opinions can turn rapidly.

And to those claiming that this author is making concrete points about twitter, I would add the observation of an outsider who never understood the draw of twitter that it was always overwhelmingly a) cynical sarcasm that can be easily encapsulated in few characters, b) public disagreement. The medium itself favored caustic commentary. The purpose of Twitter has always been negative and pandering to the choir.

Things can be better in the past. A meme is not some piece of wisdom.

Nostalgia isn't an affliction of the elderly. Its presence for all ages shows it's more a recurrent lack of consideration of reality, or many other such memory and coping mechanisms. That isn't to say it's bad, but needs to be understood as limiting in context.

BBS being the slightly more dated version of this, yes.

Eternal september is a thing tho

I find it extremely ironic that when concrete criticism about how a specific thing used to be "better" by some metric, this old chest nut is brought out, displaying the shallowness it claims to speak out against. The people who think everything "used to be better"? They're a straw man, while they may exist neither you or I even talk to them, and not one of them ever posted here or elsewhere on the internet. But they're trotted out alllllll the time. I first noticed that when I was like 20 or 21, so what was the reason then? My high IQ artificually inflating my age, me getting old before my time? Heh.

You know, back in the day people actually responded when asked something. Granted, a bullshit response was always a possibility, but not a blank and yet shameless stare.




I've been in a lot of "discussion things" over the years and i've seen them go bad. As they become more well known the worse they get. Initially somewhat-like-minded people are drawn to something for somewhat-similar reasons. When things become popular the noise from people of all walks of life drowns out the signal of like mindedness. In the case of twitter some of the noise Actively tries to ruin the signal.

The initial users of tv, radio and even cars must have felt a similar despair (after the initial thrill of their interest becoming used by more people).

It's not nostalgia, things were better "back then" where "back then" is a point between gaining users and acceptance by the general population.

Yet HN is so far managing the onslaught. Part of that is of course very tightly controlled moderation where crass behavior is immediately and severely punished, but maybe requiring civility at all times is the only way to have a meaningful discussion.

HN is widely know for being full of self absorbed white tech guys.

Yes it got more civilized in the last years, but while not being offensive it's still filled with one sided views of the world by <1% of its population.

HN-the-original hasn't survived the onslaught. It used to be a business + tech forum, with about a third of the articles being relevant to the business side of startups. Now it's a hacking + politics + general interest forum (no doubt due to changing 'Startup News' to 'Hacker News' and adding time). HN is managing, but it's had to pivot to do so.

For example, it used to be that an article about hiring was about the business side; how to remunerate, how to obtain the best-bang-for-your-buck. These days it's about the employee side; how scummy employers are, how they're all clueless about interview process, how to job-hop, even a little bragging about salaries.

Gone are the days of articles about A/B testing, and here are the days where there's usually a few NYTimes articles on the front page.

> maybe requiring civility at all times is the only way to have a meaningful discussion.

In larger forums, yes, but not in smaller forums.

I value the equality and freedom (and not being downmodded anonymously and unfairly) on Twitter but I also value this space. They are merely different spaces. I don't have to choose. Nobody reads all of twitter - it is what you make it. This place has a much more restricted demographic than Twitter. Twitter is shouting things in Central Park, whereas you wouldn't do that (I hope) at a wedding in New England. I hope I am always civil but only expect that in return in some spaces.

Also possible one of the least flashy UIs. It's not just about making the content stand out, Medium does it better and is quite a bit closer to Twitter in terms of quality of content/interaction. It's also about being actively simplistic, and requiring some effort from the reader.

But also the tight moderation.

I feel like HN is very well moderated in a way that's completely opaque which is its main strength. Users should not have to learn rules to participate, and they should not even be aware that they're breaking the rules really. Ideally they would just think that they are participating while not being aware that none of their contributions are ever seen by another user.

I think that's the recurring lesson of online communities: moderation works. Without it, the community will eventually degenerate into a haven for trolls. Unless it was always meant to be a haven for trolls; then it will become a haven for different trolls.

Maybe this is a sad lesson. I would prefer if a completely unmoderated discussion could remain civil and constructive at all times, but there's probably a reason why even panel discussions with only a handful of people need a good moderator.

Communities start with who's invited (or permitted) -- with Twitter, tech movers/shakers/early adopters; Facebook, students at elite colleges; Usenet... well, students and faculty at connected colleges.

Once the community expands, it loses some of its initial intimacy and collective mindset. Perhaps we should invent social networks that keep people in little collectives of positive feedback, rather than subjecting ourselves to the negativity of warring fiefdoms.

For anyone with an open mind, please look into why India came up with the caste system. We need a more modern version of it stripped of it's incentives for exploitation of the weak.

An Alex Jones or Trump type character believe whatever they want but systems that prop them up and give them more influence than they deserve, while hiding behind terms like equality and freedom of speech are just producing an inversion of the caste system.

As someone once put it: "There's a sort of Gresham's Law of trolls: trolls are willing to use a forum with a lot of thoughtful people in it, but thoughtful people aren't willing to use a forum with a lot of trolls in it."


I've seen any number of fora over the ages, and the debasement problem is a significant one. It's not limited to online, as the saga of The American Mercury illustrates:


My preference, increasingly, is to be acutely aware of the limits of my own time and attention, to block fuckwits with abandon, and to treasure both the individuals and fora which actually do deliver quality.

On which, a thank you to HN's mods, dang and scbt, both of whom put in a hell of a lot of work, much of it gentle, and for which HN is decidedly one of the better, and longer-lived, discussion platforms on today's Internet.

(Metafilter also seems particularly resilient.)

>A stalking ground for the sanctimoniously self-righteous who love to second-guess, to leap to conclusions and be offended – worse, to be offended on behalf of others they do not even know.

That's been the majority of comments / forums since at least 2001. It also sounds a whole lot like the modern "tabloid" news.

I don't know where you hang out but it seems like a recently development to me. It sounds like you either hung out in a very different corner of the internet than I did or haven't seen the worst of Twitter.

I've been on the Internet since the late 1980s (and the WWW since the mid 1990s). It started _long_ before 2001.

Online discourse has certainly declined in recent years. But you're right, people seeking conflict online is nothing new. What I believe HAS changed in more recent years, however, is the heavy subject matter being invoked today by these trolls. Flame wars over PC hardware and Linux distros on message boards is nothing new, but the very aggressive accusations of racism, bigotry, marginalizing, and sexism that get lobbed at people on social media is a new form of online viciousness.

Its effect on the off-line world is that much greater as well.

I think the best documented case for the internet is probably the Eternal September.


It is inevitable. Why? Because the paid "influencers" such as PR firms will be attracted to any popular and/or influential discussion forum to promote the "point of view" they are paid to promote, or viewpoints they are paid to muddy or obfuscate.

Once the site/forum reaches a certain level of influence they show up, and to the casual viewer it appears as added noise.

Stephen has since returned to Twitter, though he tweets much less than he used to. I wonder if he is now treating it as a write-only medium.

I'm one of the lucky 50K people he still follows (he used to follow everyone who followed him, in the very early days of Twitter, but that quickly stopped), but when you have 12 million followers, I imagine your use of Twitter is somewhat different to most peoples.

People have a tendency to forget that famous public figures are people and feel comfortable saying mean things without thought. I think Few's experience of Twitter is probably an amplified version of what most of us know.

I still like Twitter. Compared to other online forums, it still has the most thoughtful discourse I know of (except for HN). Even if it means tolerating a bunch of unpleasant garbage along the way.

I think the fact that Twitter made a name for itself by restricting the degree to which you can actually express your thoughts (by constraining response length) doomed them.

It's far easier to be snarky and mean in 140 characters than it is to be rational and respectful.

You think, if only they were given more space, the trolls would suddenly find themselves unspinning their vitriol into coherent, well-expressed and thoughtful sentiment?

Or would they just shit-talk with more words?

Or just continue to be terse and shitty. Unless the also implemented a minimum, I don't see how raising the maximum would help very much. At least that has been my experience in forums for many years.

by constraining response length

To be fair to Twitter that wasn't a philosophical decision - 140 chars was what fit into the 160-char SMS protocol limit, with the remainder given over to their own layer.

It wasn't originally, but twitter over SMS hasn't been relevant for a long time now. They definitely would have gone away from the 140 char restriction if they thought it would have made their service better.

It wouldn't surprise me in the slightest if they had

    char* msg = malloc(141); 
spread throughout their code still... Maybe they can't change it.

There are exceptions now to the length rule - URLs don't count, @names don't count. I would guess that means they've ripped that code all out.

Unless that's a 32-bit char, that won't work. These days twitter allows 140 unicode codepoints, not 140 bytes. At it's worst, that's 560 bytes.

Been on reddit or Youtube lately?

Yes, and IME they are a big step up from twitter, particularly Reddit.

HN hasn't much of a discourse, as in discordinng ideas aren't debated but shunned and driven away.

The technical exchange is fine, but it's more of a dump of experiences and while it's worthwhile at that, it rarely goes into discussion territory, more like throwing opinions to the other side

> HN hasn't much of a discourse, as in discordinng ideas aren't debated but shunned and driven away.

I would have said the exact opposite. As long as they're well supported, HN is more accepting of controversial views than anywhere else I know.

Some of the "troll" problems come from people saying on the web what they've always said in person.

When you say nasty things about Brad Pitt among friends, it stays there. When you say it to your friends on Twitter, it can go viral and be read both by Brad, and people who, unlike your friends, don't get your humor.

What I dislike about Twitter is how much significance things that happen on it are given.

With over 300mln active users if something has been retweeted, say, 15,000 times it still can't be reasonably counted as a "storm".

There is this interesting phenomenon that in some regions, Twitter activity is not particularly high (e.g. Germany), so according to an analysis I read a while ago, a few hundred tweets within a few hours are enough to get a topic trending in the region.

So there is this effect where a small group of activists (20-30) can easily coordinate to launch a 100 tweets. They then reach out to online media outlets, which in turn report that a topic is trending, so it is officially 'news', and thus the cycle begins.

In particular, journalists are disproportionally over-represented on twitter and thus seem to (somewhat self-importantly) overvalue it as a discussion medium. At least where I am from, it is almost exclusively activists, journalists and politicians in their own Twitter bubble talking to each other and reporting about what they say about each other.

So as they believe in its importance, it becomes important, and thus opens avenues to manipulation by pr agencies or state actors or political splintergroups.

This has been working exactly the same ever since the invention of the media. This problem is not specific to Twitter. Actually doing something like this (creating something out of nothing) is PR 101.

If you are not familiar but interested in learning more. This book is a good primer: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0074VTHH0/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?...

I observed something similar, but kept my mouth shut for fear of sounding conspirancid.

I feel the same way. It's the exact same issue sports arena has ... if 40,000 people show up for a game, that still can't be reasonably counted as an "audience".


If they are the only 40k people interested in seeing this game and absolutely no one is watching the live transmission then it's hardly a major sporting event.

A spike of retweets from 0,05% of the users is hardly a spike. If so, you would have to call every link to a funny cat gif on twitter a "Twitter Storm".

Good job on the investigation and the math but that's not how it works. Unlike closed social networks like Facebook, everything on Twitter is public.

Which means their active user count may be 300m, but they reach far wider audience than that through citations through all kinds of other media, either through indirect mentions or through direct embeds.

Of course, the fact that they're not monetizing their influence effectively is another story, but just counting their user number to say they have smaller influence is just being naive.

I dislike how both sides take an issue... cherry pick 3 tweets out of thousands and act like their side is DESTROYING the other side MERCILESSLY!!!

You don't need something to go VIRAL! to be blown out of proportion...

Not to Godwin myself, but an example someone once used was that in Nazi Germany, only a small percentage of Germans actually were firm Nazis. The moderate majority, however, let the radical minority dictate the agenda for everyone, and that's how Nazism gained power.

In the same way, I see this phenomenon all over our world. I don't know if it's because of 24-hr news cycle, Twitter/Facebook or whatever, but we see the radical, loud minority dictate the agenda. So even Fry says that it's only a small percentage of trolls that are ruining it for him, but it's enough to drive him off Twitter, despite all of his fans that want him on Twitter.

In other words, the signal-to-noise ratio is very low, but people are now taking the noise as signal and reacting to it. It's not a good thing when trolls and radicals dictate the agenda for the silent, moderate majority. All the noise from the media and anti-Trump haters is a good example of where people who listen too closely to the noise end up missing the signal where it matters, and don't react properly. I think if the Democrats really know how Middle America was feeling, they would have conducted a much different campaign, but they listened to the wrong things.

Well, they may have not all been national socialists, but they did vote Hitler into power. They also largely benefited from Hitlers rise, as he pulled them out of a depression and led the country to prosperity. So I don't really think it's true that they were against Hitler, but rather they saw the benefits and figured a police state was worth it since they were reaping the benefits of Hitler's reign.

You've reminded me of a pretty good blog post on this subject by Nassim Taleb. I think it's basically the same phenomenon you are getting at in your post but he tries to explore the idea generally.


It's fascinating that, in your analogy, folks sharing progressive views on Twitter are the Nazis, considering that literal white supremacists tend to favor the other side.

Nope, not what I said at all. I was talking about the trolls on Twitter. My point is that if you listen to the noise, rather than true signal, you might take the wrong path or get the wrong idea. In the case of the election, EVERYONE thought Clinton was going to win in a landslide, and the real signal was that it was a lot closer than that. But you never would have seen that from Twitter or the media. And that's the problem. If the Democrats were able to root out the true signal, they probably could have stopped Trump with better communication to Middle America, and stopped this debacle that we're currently in.

The forces who are interested in creating noise are far more motivated, are far more numerous, are far dirtier, and are generally far more incentivized than that forces who are interested in creating the signal. There's the rub.

Though that was mostly a racist vote for Trump.

The "trolls" Fry is talking about here are progressives. At least, that is the signal I'm getting from the following: "It doesn’t matter whether they think they’re defending women, men, transgender people, Muslims, humanists . . .."

He is essentially invoking the "snowflake" meme. And, in what might perhaps be called an instance of the Law of Snowflakes, it's in a context where he is whining about discourse not taking the tone he prefers.

(If it seems weird that I'm ignoring 80% of the parent poster's content in his comment, it is because its initial iteration of that comment only contained the first two sentences.)

You infer too much, and he isn't whining.

Trolls exist on both sides of the spectrum.

That is no doubt true, although hardly relevant when one particular side is called out by various signals in the linked blog post, one of which I have already explained. If he were talking about conservative trolls, this would be a very different article.

I've never really seen the point in twitter. I know it's popular, and for Dutch politicians, tweeting seems to be a requirement, but to me it has always seemed like a medium that's primarily for shouting into the void. And some people clearly love shouting abuse or inane crap into that void.

In any case, it's not a medium for discussion, and it seems designed to provide as little context as possible, so it's easy to take things out of context.

What about Marc Andreesen? He quit Twitter but I see him lurking around liking things and stuff. Not sure why he went into a read-only mode.

Gave away too many secrets

What do you mean?

He should come to mastodon. Way nicer place and a better feature set. Not to mention a WAY better UI. Oh, and no ads.

Sorry but I think mastodon is DOA. The user experience for on-boarding is atrocious. Think of what the average user would do if you tell them to join mastodon.

First if you search for it and go to the first page it talks about open source (no average user knows what that is; some have vague ideas but in my experience none of them know what it is beyond the very rare person who heard a report on TV and thinks it's "nerds doing something for free"). Then it talks about "blah blah blah social should be decentralized blah blah blah you cannot sign up here because we believe in decentralization!" (paraphrased, of course)

Now the user, the average user who very likely doesn't understand why this pure decentralized thing is better than Facebook or Twitter since he or she can go to one one place, sign up and immediately start posting, has to somehow find somewhere else to sign up because of some purity stance?

Look I'm all for decentralizing things. But it's never, ever going to see the growth of average users having this much friction. When you want to take growth away from highly popular incumbents you need a way to have less friction than them (at least usually, in my experience). Decentralizing, at least in this form, adds an order of magnitude more friction.

Why is it DOA just because the average user can't signup? If anything, it might help with the problem described in the article.

A social network being accessible only by a specific niche will severely limit its growth and reach. If that's all the network wants then that's fine but that's by far NOT how I've seen mastodon marketed.

Regardless, even being accessible by only people who know what's going on still doesn't guarantee success. There is still significant friction there. I know HN decentralized everything is pretty popular but when it comes to UX I've never seen it test well because I haven't seen a good enough UX to just about any decentralization of a normally centralized service that also lowers friction of use.

and fewer censorship ?

Problem is, if you want to advertise ideas (such as: "Democrats are good!") and influence public opinion, is Mastodon a good place?

The Internet is great for information and light-hearted banter but not necessarily discussion. Most discussions are plagued by trolling, astroturfing, brigading and gratuitous rudeness.

Anonymity is important but it also allows pointless discussions and arguments between let's say a child or someone not interested or versed in a subject and an expert.

The value of discussion remain low and people behave in ways they simply wouldn't face to face. In the real world these kind of discussions would be a pointless waste of time for all involved and would simply not happen.

You could try to change this by taking away the anonymity or extremely strong moderation but as we have seen with Facebook and even here the lack of anonymity doesn't stop snarky or bad behavior and there are far too many people who by default assume a tone of authority when they don't really know what they are talking about.

You should check out Lyra, a conversation service which isn't designed to recirculate its own waste.


Twitter isn't really suitable for intelligent conversations; 140 characters is too short.

But it's enough to share links, hence it replaced / is replacing RSS, trolling, and pingbacks. http://www.businessinsider.com/twitter-killed-rss-and-thats-...

>Twitter isn't really suitable for intelligent conversations; 140 characters is too short.

A lot of people break that rule by posting images with walls of text.

"A stalking ground for the sanctimoniously self-righteous" - clearly Mr Fry doesn't spend a lot of time looking in the mirror!

As eevee put it https://eev.ee/blog/2016/02/15/everyones-offended-these-days... :

>I love Stephen Fry, really I do, but this oft-repeated quote is bullshit and he is perfectly demonstrating why that is. What he’s really saying is this: everyone else’s feelings don’t matter, but his do, because he frames them as universal rules of discourse rather than feelings.

>Look at his post again — that’s exactly how he words his point of view. “Too many people have peed in the pool.” “Now the pool is stagnant, …frothy with scum.” Fry’s feelings aren’t feelings — they are a universal and objective standard of behavior, which everyone else is violating. All those angry people, yelling that Fry has violated a universal and objective standard of behavior? Ah, they’re just perpetually offended, you see. Totally different.

There at least an order of magnitude more crap and less eloquence and content in the kind of comments Fry complains about than in the stuff he writes.

The author has seen the average Twitter/Reddit/forum comments, I presume. Do they look anything like what Fry (or any talented writer for that matter) posts?

So, yeah, Fry is right, what he complains is people actually breaking "universal rules of discourse".

Give me a break, since when does sophistication count for anything? The most sophisticated /b/tard in existence could write a magnum opus about how he dominates you in every conceivable way, it still wouldn't count for anything based on the verbiage alone.

IMO, the issue is not that they are not eloquent and not written by talented writer. Talented writer who just decided to be "nasty" is not all that much different in results. The issue is large group of people who decided to make your life on the service as miserable as possible. Whether they are talented writers or not, insults, spread lies, harassment and vivisected animals are the same.

Talented writers are good at making people hate you. They excel at stating that you are just offended snowflake or whatever after they misrepresented what you said and intentionally made the the dogpile bigger.

Indeed I have, and I agree with this part of the point. However, for Stephen Fry to call out self-righteousness in others....pot, meet kettle!

One can be a quite talented writer and still have regressive views. These two properties are orthogonal.

Not saying Fry is regressive -- I honestly don't know his views -- just saying that the "rules of discourse" are not about how well you write, aesthetically.

Eevee also says:

>I’m also not saying that what happened to Stephen Fry is okay. I’ve grumbled before about the dogpile effect on Twitter, and now I’m going to do it again.

>Fry told a joke — outside of Twitter, even. Some people found it tasteless, and told him as much. Multiply by tens, hundreds, maybe thousands. No single person would think they’re doing anything outlandish, but in aggregate, they become a massive impromptu mob.

>This is a glaring problem with Twitter, and a worse problem with Tumblr. And there aren’t many tools for dealing with it. You have only a handful of options here, and they all boil down to: slog through it or retreat entirely.

Right, everything is just feelings anyway, it's all just relative. Can't we all agree that nobody can know anything because we all have a different point of view? Who's to say my offense is worth less than yours??

Sometimes I wish these relativists would all just go live on an island somewhere together, endlessly policing themselves until they start to "get" what is so intellectually bankrupt about their whole paradigm.

You clearly didn't even read Eevee's post, yet you suggest he "just go live on an island". Way to go!

You can tell that from all the way over there, eh? Anyway, what would it matter if I hadn't? (I have.) The pull quotes from the parent and the content of the grandparent reflect the attitude I'm criticizing perfectly, even if one of them pulled quotes out of context to support it. The attitude is that polite discourse is so nebulous and loose weave that Stephen Fry has no right to categorically state that his detractors are infringing upon common decency. After all, who's to say that his offense is worth any more than theirs?

Well, I will say that. His offense is worth more than theirs. It is possible to say objective things about the way that people are arguing.

As an aside, I didn't suggest anybody go live on an island. That's a deliberately uncharitable reading on your part, I'd say. I'm using that phrase as a rhetorical device to express an idea. The idea is: I wish they could live in the world they're trying to create for a few days so they could live out, in real life, everything that is wrong with their picture of How Things Should Work. My point is that I don't think society could function very well if everybody was paralyzed by an infinite relativistic regress of social concern that "my polite" may not be "your polite". Nobody is literally being told to go live on an island to fuck off, as you seem to be suggesting.

Twitter is and always has been a pile of trash. It's the "please limit your response to 30 seconds" of the internet.

Is it still distasteful if you just use it as fire n forget to broadcast your thoughts?


Is that a 180? I thought it was already a Nazi hangout back in the GamerGate days. In fact, wasn't that what convinced Twitter to finally start to clean up a bit?

TL;DR: Stephen Fry quits Twitter in early 2016.

> Where Stephen Fry discovers the concept of the Eternal September.

Fry was at the forefront of those who weaponized Twitter, with an army of sycophants attacking any of his real or imagined foes. He was instrumental in creating the problem he bemoans.

> "Fry was at the forefront of those who weaponized Twitter, with an army of sycophants attacking any of his real or imagined foes. He was instrumental in creating the problem he bemoans."

A comment like this absolutely requires sources. OP might be correct, but without any attempt to justify or corroborate, this just smacks of trolling and is a perfect example of what is wrong with Twitter.

It is kinda unfair to blame twitter for accusatory comment on hacker news.

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