However, there's another element of "user-hostile" that I didn't see addressed (maybe I missed it in my haste?) -- that is the websites trying to control exactly how the content is consumed by the user.
This problem isn't just limited to the web though. If you're unfortunate enough to see modern television (or movies, for that matter), it's clear that the amount of content has gone down, the noise has gone up, and the efforts to lock the audience in have increased.
There are some people who advocate avoiding all news and media. I think it's a bit extreme, but it may be more beneficial than harmful.
 The trend of support docs for enterprise software going video is horrible, stupid, and a negative mark when I'm evaluating products. If someone has to spend hours of eyebleed rewinding some bullshit video over and over while writing actually usable documentation for incident response, of course that cost is part of the cost of the product in question.
Of course I understand that they want ad impressions and I'm guessing the shortened attention span of users favors videos over text, but if you want to train users to simply skip those low quality, low effort videos without purpose that's one way to do it.
Why did we become afraid to diverge from the norm and trends on the internet? From a consumer standpoint, uniformisation makes content parsing easier in the sense that you know what to expect and how to compare content more readily but why do people not go on a limb and take more "risk" in differentiating content? Why don't we have a glorious mess of different formats and the opportunity to choose medium?
At some point I believe A/B testing and optimising for reachability put a negative pressure on variation from the norm and platform standards, and that's a tragedy of the commons.
Because “we” wanted to get rich, or at least make a living.
If you're in it to get rich or to mke a living exclusively from your art, you better be good enough rather than expecting a sense of duty from your public to subsidise your effort.
Not to say one shouldn't be incentivised to be creative, but just that I do not agree that wanting to make a living makes ads or extracting value from your public by all means ok.
Certainly not by all means. But it isn't unreasonable to expect that if people gain value from something you create, some of that value accrues to you as the creator.
I make most of my living as a freelance writer, but I just charge other people to write the content they can't or won't.
There is also another problem here: the market doesn't typically incentivize the sort of content we'd like to see created. Long form investigative journalism is hugely expensive, and in a world awash with free content, few people think they should have to pay for it. But do we really want to see that sort of content go away?
And in this not strictly commercial writing context, I believe client side mining may be a good form of low-commitment compensation.
Pish posh. Not everything on the web is worth paying for. The content that is worth money will draw subscribers, and content producers are going to just have to live up to the fact that not all of what they produce is worth paying for.
The ad model has left us mired in a suffocating heap of crap content people claim has "value" because they're able to hack the system and get ad revenue from it. But in reality the content is secondary and just an excuse for the ads.
It's not my responsibility to make sure some website I go to gets monetized. It's especially galling to me because I spent many formative years providing content to people for free, just because I wanted to and because I had an interest in it. In my personal opinion, all the people trying to ride the wave of monetizing their content should go run off and jump on that "new thing", whatever it is, as long as it's not the web.
and yet they are willing to expend more electricity, at a huge inefficiency, to produce vastly less monetary value to the site. I would rather just pay the 1cent.
If the choice is between a barren wasteland of providers removing useful content from open access or waiting on 1% of users to subsidise the rest or giving the option to users to pay while they're accessing content, I'll take some form of choice to put my hardware to use for a while if thay eventually pays for hosting and a couple meals to the admin.
I think we agree that this does not work at scale but for small operators and some niches, I'm convinced this is a safe option for the siteowner not to have to mess with a payment processor and personnaly identifiable information.
This last point especially might become more important with the EU regulations on the horizon.
The motivation is not to use *coins for their own sake, but that the alternative is getting scarier everyday.
 - in the days of energy crisis, when we can't even switch to safer sources fast enough not to risk cooking ourselves on this planet.
 I'd be OK with it if they prominently indicated that, how and why they were being electricity vampires. I still wouldn't use them, but at least it wouldn't be dishonest.
The goal as always is to divert my attention, sell me something of dubious value or some other equally vacuous purpose.
If it pays the bills for worthwhile content producers to mine crypto currency as a form of micropayment, I think that's a better trade with lower psychic cost.
I have managed to make periods in my life completely free from unwanted content, and they are blissful compared to the never ending attention grabbing bs of the advertising and public relations engines of modern industry.
They are simply a waste of people's time and energy.
If crypto-mining is done openly, of course. It's certainly dishonest if it's not disclosed.
Indeed, such behavior is reminiscent of one of the oldest tourist scams in the book, no doubt experienced by anyone who has traveled the world in any amount.
That is to say, the mark is offered something for free, usually some trivial trinket, or a photo, or something like that. The mark believes it is for free and accepts it. Once the mark has accepted the "free" item, then the scammer changes tune and implies that they should be paid for this exchange, playing on the marks feelings of guilt, obligations and fairness.
Apparently this is now a respectable internet business model. Hah!
Honesty breeds honesty. I disable ad blocking on sites that ask nicely and don't spam with ads too much.
With text, I can speed-read, slowing down at key points as needed. And if it's a text I want to devote more study/attention to, then can print it (which facilitates speed reading as well.)
But for facts - reading is simply superior.
What sometimes works, if it is wellmade, is a mixed presentation: text, pictures and video, where you can controll the pace of information. But I seldom see something like this wellmade.
Same, and I've noticed this trend for quite a while now. Text can always be trivially copied, even by a granny, and inserted into an email or forum. A video? You can have a DRM arms race with video.
Videos also prevent skimming, and demand consumption of all content.
Please don't use this as a substitute for "novice computer user" and similar. I've encountered people twice my age with grandchildren who are experts, and people younger than me who are novices.
It demands a yes/no answer and thus always appears to be an admission of guilt. Your question leaves it open to answer any way you like.
It's not that it's a true Catch 22, it's just leading and begs the question.
To an advertiser, that's a feature. This is half of the problem.
They need to be put back in their box and have a bunch of their toys taken away. GDPR is a good start.
This needs to get into people's head - as long as the incentives are so misaligned, there's no chance for peace here.
0:00 - 00:10 Useless video animation
00:10-2:00 "Hey guys welcome to my channel. Make sure to like and subscribe and let me know how I'm doing in the comments. Also make sure to check out [sponsor] and use coupon code [code] for 10% off"
2:00-5:00 Useless personal story about why creator is making the video
5:00-10:00 Useless history of the subject matter
10:00-11:00 The actual useful content
This now makes up the bulk of 'content' and is heavily monetized and driven by monetization where the 'content creators' have a more intimate relationship with advertisers and platforms to essentially sell out their audience ie back to the old media model of 'influencers'.
The content is also derivative and repetitive but easier to access and consume. Thanks to the monetization the presentation and production values are higher. There is definitely some decent content produced by this model but it becomes harder and harder to find.
There is a certain desperation to capitalism that infects everything. Sell, sell, sell, make money, forget everything else unless it affects your ability to make money, and it becomes the primary driver.
I just quoted you on twitter as I think that expresses very well how I feel. Underlying capitalism is the thought that if you fail you'll starve.
But (and bringing this back to the original topic) the businesses behind the web have gone even further. It's not sufficient to make money, you must make ALL the money you can ALL of the time. This leads to the behaviour as discussed in the article - no regard for how you are treating your customers/fellow human beings, just get rich, and by winning you justify your shitty actions.
This is probably nothing new, robber barons have been around for a long time, but it now seems to be standard practice for all businesses, especially web-based ones who don't directly deal with people.
(I like to sometimes phrase it as "the market optimizes for creating the most useless thing that you can still trick people into buying".)
 - http://slatestarcodex.com/2014/07/30/meditations-on-moloch/
In real world, we solve this the usual way - by having a government enforce them.
I've been listening to podcasts since about 2010, and in that time I've witnessed podcasts that used to be ad-free jump on the Blue Apron / Stamps.com / Dollar Shave Club bandwagon. First they started with a little sponsored ad at the end of the show. Then one at the beginning. Then one commercial break. Then multiple commercial breaks. It's the same downward spiral that television went through and it's absolutely painful to watch it happen and be powerless to do anything. Maybe I should have done a better job of supporting those podcasts; I did donate to many of them. But I envision a time in the future where I'll no longer be able to feel good about listening.
I mean, the whole point (and value) of podcasts is to remove the private radio station crap, not to replicate it.
BTW, the German podcast scene is a quite positive example of the directions podcasts can go.
Any podcast player I can imagine anyone would ever use has a convenient way to skip ads, and the neither the presence of the ads themselves nor my decision to skip them degrades the experience of listening to the podcast. My podcast player doesn't demand I look at Forbes' "thought of the day" or disable my fast-forward button in order to play. It doesn't connect to 280 random third-party tracking domains as I listen to an episode. It downloads a file and plays that file for me.
Who really cares that much about ads that don't track you or destroy your experience?
I beg to differ.
I see the ability to skip ads immediately, at any time, as a fundamental user right (and websites that try to deny this right should be prosecute by consumer protection). In other words, this is not the distinction between good versus bad quality. It is the distinction between merely acceptable versus totally inacceptable.
With regard to quality, it is a huge jump upwards if a podcast has no ads at all, nowhere, not even hidden or implicit. It is a really noticeable difference if the whole audio simply doesn't care about pleasing any stakeholder besides its audience.
If you choose to skip the ads, then how should the creators be compensated for the content that you consumed?
"With regard to quality, it is a huge jump upwards if a podcast has no ads at all, nowhere, not even hidden or implicit. It is a really noticeable difference if the whole audio simply doesn't care about pleasing any stakeholder besides its audience."
You know what else is a huge jump in quality? Actually being able to continue to do the show.
There's way too much "content" these days anyway, and the worst of it is the one that is done to make money (as opposed to labour of love, or having external funding independent of content's performance - like patronage, being considered a "marketing expense", etc.).
Moreover, direct donations  are working quite well, at least for the popular podcasts. (But then, only the very popular podcasts make a fortune anyway.)
Here in Germany, SEPA standing orders are quite popular for fans to support their favourites.
Also, buying stuff and sending that to the Podcasters is quite popular for some formats (either specialized stuff like high-quality chocolate from people working in that business, or just buying random stuff from a podcaster's Amazon wishlist.)
 Well, legally this is still plain income rather than donations, so you still have to pay taxes. Unless, of course, that income is very small and/or you create a non-profit organization around your podcast.
There's an easy-to-imagine scenario where advertisers bribe podcast playing software creators to embed these "features" for a cut of the money.
Long episodes, such as 2 hours interviewing a physicist at ITER are really well done.
- CRE Technik, Kultur, Gesellschaft https://cre.fm/
- Deutschlandfunk Nova - Eine Stunde History https://www.deutschlandfunknova.de/eine-stunde-history
- Methodisch Inkorrekt http://minkorrekt.de/
- Raumzeit https://raumzeit-podcast.de/
- Logbuch Netzpolitik https://logbuch-netzpolitik.de/ (prefer the episodes where they have guests)
Makes it harder to estimate where the information in the video is.
I'm happy when it's only useless. It's often useless and loud.
Mind, mobile YT doesn't have keyboard sip, but mpsyt does.
Binary search works well.
The video almost always is unrelated (different team, different story) to what I'm already well into reading. This is annoying 100% of the time. It's never useful to me.
Even worse. Some stories will be just a few words and a video. So I go to a site, read, play video.... and that same site's autoplay video will pop up and play ON TOP OF THEIR OWN CONTENT. I don't even know what to think about that, what could they possibly feel they're accomplishing?
Do they visit their own site? Do they feel like shotgunning content at me and having me fight to close different windows is a good thing?
I agree, having to hit play is a small price to pay.
But it has been an ever-evolving disaster, always finding ways to get worse.
I don't buy this idea where everything is always imposed on us by evil corporations.
More and more websites using video to me seems more like a proof that people prefer videos over written content. That's why videos usually autoplay, also on YouTube and Facebook: if a person starts watching and listening, it's much more likely that they will stay instead of closing the page.
We have taught things to each other by talking for as long as hundreds of thousands of years, probably more. By contrast, reading has been common among a large percentage of the population only for a couple of centuries.
We evolved using verbal communication, not written one. Written form has, of course, its advantages, but it does not mean that it's the preferred medium for most people.
Videos and audio are also easier to watch/listen to while you are doing something else like cooking, gardening or commuting. There are a ton of contexts where you cant read, but you can at least listen.
That's why even books are converted into audio formats nowadays.
The fact that a small crowd on HN prefers reading is not the proof that video is "user-hostile". HN is rarely the reflection of the general public.
Although I keep reading a lot of online content or books, lately I have consumed a lot more valuable information in a podcast/video lecture format than in a written one.
In general I'm not against video content in a web page, as it actually can be a good source of raw data that we can use to understand something in great details, but I would argue that in many cases video is objectively inferior to text: texts are much easier to parse (both for computers and humans) and also some irrelevant information included in the audiovisual format can reduce the entropy of a content (e.g. how a reporter looks like physically).
Cigarettes and junk food are definitely unhealthy, but people love them. So much that it’s hard to take them away from them.
Your evolutionary arguments are also pretty bizarre and reductionist. Maybe we did evolve using verbal communication, but we didn't evolve to be schizophrenic voyeuristic mutes without face-to-face nonverbal feedback.
I don't think their arguments are bizarre, and it's better to meet them head-on than to insinuate they're weird.
- Driving: a lot of people drive, very few of them like it or they would learn how to do it properly
- Public transport: 99,99% of people using public transport hate it
- Going to the dentist
- eating vegetables
- taking kids to the pool
and so on…
all of this things are incredibly annoying to many, yet they have not failed
But I don't understand the connection.
The core of the issue is the proverbial "worse is better"
All the walled garden on the web are optimising one particular feature - engagement - leaving behind many others that are equally important if not more, like user's freedom or privacy.
It's no wonder that investing so much money in getting users to subscribe and use the platform results in an increase of time spent by the users on the platform.
It is orthogonal to the problem highlighted in the original post.
The net effect is so strong that any other platform that tries to enter the market either has to waste a lot of money (if they have them) or use the same techniques that are already in place to sustain their businness
The choice is on the users, but for the majority of them it's not worth it until it's too late.
Cigarettes and junk foods are not hostile -- they are incredibly enticing. What they are is harmful (which is something different).
Video, similarly, whether harmful or not, is very welcome by lots of people who strongly prefer it to reading.
Just as the Trojans how that big wonderful Horse statue worked out for them :p
They're a great way to fidget, they go great with coffee, they look majestic on the big screen, and nicotine is extremely addictive.
Heck, whole movies and books, and poems and songs have been written about them in a positive light. And lots.
If it wasn't for the health concern people would still be smoking on airplanes and there would just be a small "non smoking" area (like in the 70s).
The argument sounds like, "If Comcast was such a bad company it would have failed on its own already."
Could there other forces at play that would explain how video as a format might succeeding despite not being preferred by users?
That is not the slightest bit true and is in fact the entire basis for the conversation we’re having.
Is it? The original article is talking about web tracking, the entire point of which is to give you more of whatever you like. Facebook just gives you more of whatever you click on, so if you're disappointed with the stuff you get on Facebook then probably you're just in denial about your own tastes or identity.
Anecdotal, but I recently managed to reorient my Facebook feed into a more "positive" light.
- I systematically un-followed sources of "negative" content (e.g. stupid, demeaning, cynical, deceptive/disingenuous, etc.) One strike, max two. This included some friends (repeated offenders - lol). No engagement whatsoever with these posts (no 'angry'/'sad' reaction, no display of comments).
- I liked/followed many "positive" pages/communities (notably authors, non-fiction books, self-help or growth-mindset).
- I made a point to like/comment/share "positive" posts and comments (e.g. clever, beautiful, grateful, fair, virtuous, etc.)
My main criteria was quality, above topic. E.g. bye-bye "petty" content even if it's "science" (which I like). I was quite selective, as it's easy to re-sub later.
I stayed unusually long on the site over a few days, to extensively clean/curate my feed.
Within a week, everything changed to suit my newfound tastes: basic feed is great, ads/sponsored content more relevant; it even seems there's been a positive shift in post sentiment selected from my contacts.
My Facebook feed is actually somewhat pleasant now. It fits my mindset of choice (away from the overly critical/cynical/negative individual I used to be in previous years). All it took is a little self-discipline and some manual curating (I've always refrained from liking too many sources, so there wasn't much to deal with).
Imagine that I followed you around all day bumping into you, waiting for you to drop some money and then walk away without noticing, so I could pick it up. That's annoying and hostile to you, but profitable to be with sufficient automation. That's the modern commercial web.
The fact of the matter is, people want to be paid for the stuff they create. That's how they're enabled to create more of that stuff. We learned a long, long time ago that people didn't want to outright pay for things. That doesn't leave many options.
They are also (considered as a single or primary channel) a much worse mechanism for actually effectively communicating anything other than emotion (though they can be a useful accompaniment to text.)
Writing an article takes a lot of time
Writing a good one, is not for everybody
But making a video is really easy
I would not say it is really easy for everyone, it would not be easy for me. But it is easy for people accustomed to talk a lot.
but when you have to actually cook something, having something in writing with some illustration is much easier
you don't have to start/pause/skip/rewind the video with your greasy hands, you can just skim with your eyes
that's why in a lot of cooking books from the past the recipes take one or at maximum two pages that can be read side by side
Video ads pay a lot better than ordinary display ads. 15$ CPM vs 30¢ CPM on my media sites. It's not a 1-1 comparison on UX (you may lose half your reader base and still come out ahead).
But at least the content is covered by search engines via asciiwwdc.com
If I want to see videos, I'll go to youtube or vimeo. Don't force them on me when I'm trying to find quick info.
Isn't that a kind of entitlement?
I might prefer text myself, but it's up to the content provider, who gives me FREE content, to put up whatever they like.
And they have a reason that they put out videos, as they are much more popular with certain demographics.
Specifically, it's the opinion that something must be a certain way because you want it like that.
Besides, one can't make actual demands when they have no power.
Video content isn't "user hostile" any more than a movie you don't like is "user hostile".
For entertainment that's fine, I enjoy cartoons, drama etc. as much as anyone.
Even in that context, amateurs and people starting out with a subject, might prefer to have less information density and have things explained in easy steps -- instead of lots of stuff they don't get crammed in 5 minutes.
Generally the value of the content was extremely poor and very click bait-y. My analogy I use is I see using Facebook like eating junk food when I could be spending that time consuming more meaningful content.
I've probably been off Facebook now for a year and I don't miss it one bit.
Of course, once the response gets to your browser you're free to block, filter or do whatever you like to it, but user freedom is only half the equation here. Publisher freedom is important as well.
Hostility is not about rights or freedom.
People consume it more.
They stay on the site longer, they tend to watch more videos than read articles, and they share videos more.
Now obviously the videos still need to be good content but the reason you’re seeing more video content is not because of some nefarious scheme: it’s because content producers see better user engagement with it.
It's a worse experience, and I avoid that sort of site if at all possible.
It can be true for you of course. But if so you're an outlier.
Long story short - we see people actively engage with video content more (ie - they share it, they comment on it, they respond to it more positively, etc etc).
The numbers don't lie, and they're pretty clear.
Article-based/written content isn't going anywhere, but it's not the only delivery stream anymore. It hasn't been for years really but it was contained in YouTube for the most part. But social videos (instagram, twitter, etc) really blew the lid off that and now videos are becoming a whole new and different category of content.
Now obviously sites that just do a 5 minute video full of junk instead of a 3 paragraph article are just that - junk. But that's why I said the video content still needs to be good content. Sites that don't do that deserve to be ignored - and not all sites are good at producing video content.
I work at Bleacher Report and we very specifically craft our videos to be more than what you're describing (they respect the medium and don't replace articles at all). But we're still producing more and more videos because they are extremely popular.
They’re complementary content - doing things in a different medium that wouldn’t be as effective (or possible) in written form.
That’s resulting in more positive user engagement and social activity.
More choice in fact.
As a specific example, Stephen Grider's udemy courses took me through the process of learning full stack Node/React app development, and it was awesome.
I find it much harder to focus and be productive while reading books, videos (especially with good slides and diagrams) feel way more natural.
I wonder what percentage of people prefer learning from books to learning from (good) video courses. Is this HN being contrarian, or does the majority really prefer text?
The worst is anything that has terminal commands or code displayed in a video. Screenshots aren't much better, although at least they stay put without having to futz with the pause controls. Text - that is searchable and copy/pasteable - is king .
I can do podcasts and videos for other subjects; I've been loving Dan Carlin and the Great War youtube series. But technical stuff is too hard.
 Nothing boils my blood like a bug report with a screenshot of a logfile open in notepad, or a very low resolution, downsampled jpeg of the browser JS console... It means you worked harder to give me less useful information
If I want quick information on how to install or troubleshoot something that realistically should only be one or two lines of code, watching someone's youtube video is a very inefficient way to provide that content.
This comment is on point. I am told that many students on Udemy use videos courses as a reference, where they skip through videos to find the exact content they are looking for. I'm sure people do this, but I don't think its an effective use of video teaching.
My goal with videos is to show the entire beginning to end process of building some arbitrary app. Many commenters here on HN are advocates of apprenticeships for learning tech; I view video courses as an easily distributable form of apprenticeship.
Video instructions are usually directed to people who are beginning their adventure, and in programming I usually need to just skim over some text these days to know what's relevant for me and what not. I guess many people have the same sentiment.
For me videos were insanely useful trying to get into Blender. Something that helped me a lot, but I guess mostly thanks to my 0% knowledge of the topic.
the current web hated that, it didnt have control. they are trying to 'wean' us off gifs through companies like giphy.
how many people cringe when you click on a link on reddit and realize its a link to youtube and you have to watch a commercial for a 30 second video? I am like omg, youtube, close
People increasingly do voice messages.
1. Because messages are faster spoken than written
2. Your "listeners" can't interrupt you, like on a phone call
3. Your messages aren't searchable as easily as text-messages
Though the content and quality expressed by education ... has shifted. On the one hand, there's clearly been advances in knowledge and education, but at the same time, those are being presented to a much, much larger share of the population.
I've seen people (children, students, professionals) with widely varying levels of literacy and cognitive skills, ranging from frighteningly high to almost none at all. I think this may be underappreciated.
Or, TL;DR: yes, a lot of people are terrible at reading.
And the greater point there, that you appear to have missed, is that content creators don't really owe you anything, unless you've paid them. Thus, their actions are not hostile to you.
The primary motivation of many "creators" is to gain more income; to that end, they do not need to produce user-friendly content, they just need to produce content that earns money. That doesn't even require maximizing readership.
Aside from that, whether one person is being hostile to another person has absolutely nothing to do with anybody "owing" anybody else anything. These are two totally unrelated concepts.
Have you ever seen the soup Nazi from Seinfeld? Would you say he's not hostile because no body is owed his soup?
The worst you can claim a video is, is an inconvenience. That's it. Saying it's "hostile" because you'd prefer text is entitlement to the point of craziness.
Maybe the soup Nazi was a bad analogy, but how about a car salesman who knowingly sells you a lemon? They could be nice and polite up front and do everything they could to make you feel comfortable with making the purchase. They are still knowingly doing something to benefit themselves at your expense. If it was a choice where one side got a benefit and the other remained neutral I would see it as not hostile, but when it's a benefit for one side at the expense of the other side, it's become hostile at that point
Speaking personally, when I find user-hostile content, I simply leave the page/close the window/throw away the magazine. I don't feel entitled to have the content in any way.
However, I do feel entitled to make an appeal to content producers that they try to come up with a way to make their content less hostile. It's just an appeal, though, and they are absolutely free to ignore it.
This would be a blessing for much of the "content" out there.
Do they owe me anything? Of course not. But if they want my precious, precious attention and the opportunity to advertise to me then they need to play ball my way. Otherwise, fuck them.
What about when the video contains exclusive, important trade-related info? Is dismissing someone to go create their own content on exclusive information really a coherent counterargument (or useful strategy)? Do you really want the internet to be even more polluted with more second- and third-source crap than it already is?
Video is creators stroking their egos. The creator is unimportant, only his/her ideas, which internally manifest as words and should be transcribed as cleanly and accurately as possible. Video is an extremely poor medium for most ideas.
I'm sorry, but I still see nothing "hostile" about them choosing one medium over the other. You might have a slight inconvenience, but that's it.
If you don't like things being in videos, then write written content to compete with it. Otherwise, stop with the over the top exaggerations and feelings of entitlement from content creators.
Video needs smothering, not competition.
Then stop complaining.
"Content creators are not some unassailable gift horse immune from inspection or criticism. People are free to criticize the things I contribute to this world; and my feelings will not be hurt if they do. Perhaps you could learn from this."
But you're not criticizing. You're getting all in a tizzy because others aren't doing things exactly the way you want them. You're demanding that your entitlement be fulfilled.
"Video needs smothering, not competition."
Not according to the vast amounts of people who find it just fine. If you wish to prove that another medium is better, then feel free to create competing content in that medium to show it.
"Vast amounts of people"? Vast amounts of people kill other vast amounts of people, are you ok with that? Vast amounts of people vote for laws that screw over other vast amounts of people, is that cool? A vast amount of people boarded the Titanic, look where that got them...
If some idiot Youtube personality wants to flap their jaws for an hour, droning on and on about whatever stupid pointless thing in their life is stuck in their craw or whatever, fine. But for information dispersal, unless the video is densely packed with visual content, it needs to be text. Doers all over the world will thank you.
Entitlement is, if anything, forcing poor viewers to sit through a 15-minute life-story-slash-prologue just so they can continue to participate in a Reddit discussion or finish their task or whatever.
And what if some of us want the freedom to watch? Maybe I'm illiterate? Just like you, I could say that putting something in writing instead of a video is 'hostile' if it doesn't meet my preferences.
Talking about 'hostile' is hysterical.
If you make a video, just include the transcript.
I can’t have an OCR system automatically translate a video into text.
> extremely pleased to have our first and indeed only genuine superhero you you may have come across know and across the internet as Captain disillusion you've already seen some their fantastic work there you to tell is amazing if you haven't seen it I I personally do subscribe to it they're given there are over quarter of a million other subscribers I am statistically insignificant and you should update I think the number of views on the channel has now passed 15 million so if you could all adjust your booklet accordingly that would be appreciated captain disillusion will be talking to us about heroic feats of YouTube D bunker II so can you please I think we're set put your hands together welcome to stage Captain disillusion hello hi quick clarification I'm not Compton disillusion obviously my name is Alan and I'm an intern at disillusion industries the captain's…
Now here’s the output of a written article automatically turned into speech:
Now tell me, which of them is more usable?
The only time YouTube’s CC button works even slightly okay is if the uploader manually transscribed everything.
"It might not seem like much now, but what that noise represented was the stuff of science fiction at the time: near-instantaneous communication at a planetary scale. It was a big deal."
I kind of yearn for the pre-web days... when the primary means of communication was mailing lists and newsgroups, without any commercial
The creation of the web was when it all started to go wrong. Corporations started to flock to it like flies and tried their best to turn it in
to an ad-laden, spyware-laden, dumbed-down, one-way broadcasting medium not too far from television.
I sincerely hope that the “re-decentralization” movement is able to attract hackers and gain steam.
Of course people will just end up recreating TCP over HTTPS to get around these sorts of things, but I don't think we're headed toward a decentralised and opinionated (i.e. not heavily filtered based on traffic analysis) network.
I still remember the day that these assholes showed up and ruined a wonderful thing, and as you can see I'm not really over it.
Where things went wrong on the web, imho, was when business started leaning on people to put graphic corporate branding front and center, encouraging the abuse of things like tables and so on to create something that looked more like a magazine advert. Now, you could argue that such commercial pressures were got people to throw money at the WWW int he first place and rove technological development, and you'd have a point - the early web was pretty dull to look at. I wrote a book on how to use it for consumers around 1994 and every so often I take it off the shelf for a giggle at how primitive it looks in the screenshots. But at that time it was much better curated and the browsing experience was much more rewarding in many respects, although I'm obviously influenced by some nostalgia for a simpler era.
I really hoped to see the semantic web recapture some of the user-centric benefits of the early web, but development on that front seems slooooooow, and my ideas about a graph centric virtual space seem too sci-fi for me to even get meaningful answers from people I've asked.
It's hard to explain but it's got the same feel of people who tinker and enjoy technology for the hell of it. With HF you get communication all over the globe.
It's also explicitly non-commercial so it's stayed relatively undeveloped. Granted you'll never see the exponential of communication that the internet unleashed due to limited spectrum but that might be in some ways a blessing.
Thankfully K1JT via WSJT has been doing some awesome open source weak signal work. FT8 is pretty sweet and really exploded recently.
I think ham radio is split between the people who like the social/contest aspect of it and those of us who like to tinker(and a subset that covers people who like both). 97.1b pretty clearly lays out a mandate to advance the state of the art and I think it's pretty incredible to pick out a message -20db below the noise floor.
But there are two issues: FT8 is just a contact, with maybe a 73, so it’s even more impersonal than contesting (which is extremely popular, of course). Breaking a pileup is pretty much left to the computer, rather than due to operator skill.
And the old timers on 160 who earned their DXCC (100 countries - very difficult on 160) certificates the hard way using CW / SSB aren’t happy with the relative ease of getting an FT8 DXCC award. The ARRL can fix that, however.
Over in the SOTA community we're looking at a few potential solutions. There's nothing in the core FT8 spec that mandates the standard QSO exchange and there's support for free messages(at a max of 13 chars).
As someone with a KX3 I think anyone running more than 10W is at a huge advantage ;). You're right though, the right way is to split the awards by mode/type. That said I find the content stuff just as impersonal and find the relaxed atmosphere of SOTA much more appealing.
That's what makes ham radio so awesome though, it's all fair game. I just hate to see people try to squash things just because it's not the "old way". That part seems really counter to the experimental nature of the hobby.
Facebook, twitter had the same feeling of "exclusivity" for a while. Twitter lasted a bit longer because the capability to compose your thoughts in < 140 chars demanded a certain level of sophistication but then came #winning and shit-posting.
These days I find as a developer even, as that segment expands there's an increasing amount of noise but I've gotten into emacs recently and can appreciate the marked increase in tranquility there. Nobody's trying to make a buck off my questions and answers. Nobody has a commercial (or other) interest in keeping me clueless.
I still recall watching this change firsthand.
When i got my first modem, i was informed of a regional IRC channel on one of the big networks. And from that day onwards i would have my client set to connect to that channel, and fire it up alongside the email client right after the handshake completed.
But at one point the channel died, and the cause of death was twofold.
one part was the creation first generation social media services, and their web based chat rooms.
Another part, and perhaps a bigger part, was that Microsoft made a strong push of MSN Messenger with Windows XP.
This resulted in a more clique style communications form online, as you had to know people and get their account info before being able to contact them. With IRC you joined the channel and that was it.
I recall having on the fly conversations about TV programs on IRC.
 at least in Germany
The capabilities and features of web forums are also really dumbed-down and limited compared to what you could get with the mail clients and news clients of even 20 or 30 years ago.
Long story short, a lot of the large internet companies withhold or obscure functionality that users really want in order to keep them engaged and sell more ads. We have the technology to do a lot better than we are doing, but capital prefers to manufacture scarcity in the guise of abundance.
Yes, the tight coupling of progress to profits is becoming very counter-productive. Too many good ideas and products that get killed because they can’t make enough money (and the criteria for “enough” keeps rising unnecessarily and exponentially, i.e. something has to sell in tens of millions to be considered a “success” even if half a million would be profitable.)
We will need to rethink the role of money in human civilization if we don’t want it to become a corporate hell where every action is dictated by how much money it makes.
For example, Google only lets you get a few results at the top of their search. What if you want to get the whole 100,000 of them? Sometimes it's important, for science.
"This is one of the things that web-based forums have yet to get right. Email (and NNTP news) clients from 20 or 30 years ago are far superior in this respect, because they can intelligently deal with threading and folding. These features alone makes large conversations much easier to deal with than on web-forums.
To add to that, email (and NNTP news) clients even from 20 or 30 years ago have other powerful features that web forums have yet to catch up on:
- kill files (which you can use to filter out unwanted articles/mails based on content or metadata such as subject, user, etc)
- user-configurable anti-spam filtering or other "intelligent" filtering (such as bayesian filtering not just for spam/ham, but for
- tagging not just on a site-wide level but at the client level so each user can tag messages/articles the way they make sense to them
- other advanced filtering and scripting based on any of the above
Web-based forums are just incredibly primitive compared to this many-decade-old technology."
 - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=15373179
 - https://wikivisually.com/wiki/Kill_file
When I first saw that gmail starts a new thread when you change a subject I did not believe it at first; I thought I have made a mistake in replying. Text-based clients of old (tin, pine, etc.) still outperform current monstrosities by a wide margin.
And of course, there's nothing stopping anyone from building a web forum and offering an endpoint for third party clients, they just don't, mostly because web forums themselves have more or less been superseded by Facebook, Twitter and Youtube, and no one seems to care about them anymore.
The only pre-web feature that web forums can't really implement is decentralization.
One of the things we keep forgetting as we move forward is that client-control > server-control.
I'm not sure if we're forgetting it, as an industry we seem hell bent on removing user control. SaaS, cloud hosting, software walled gardens, invasive automatic updates, hidden software in hardware, etc. We're losing more and more control all the time. Around here it's nearly heresy to suggest the companies run their own servers.
There's a clear agenda to take back the power and voice that the computers are giving to the common man: http://opentranscripts.org/transcript/coming-war-general-com...
Plus, the clients had things like killfiles, so that one could ignore a troll or a subject (or even fancier stuff, like scoring: maybe a user tends to have worthless comments, but what he says about one subject is really worthwhile).
If YC ever decide to destroy HN they can.
With an HN Usenet newsgroup it'd be distributed across all the servers that carry that group. You could download software and host it yourself.
Less free speech, more control, less privacy and more ads.
* some people are unhappy because they feel constrained
* topics are an illusion anyway, people do post off-topic messages anyway, depending on strictness of moderation. People interested by the original topic are annoyed by the inevitable off-topic talk.
If you want to use the web in that way, just remove YouTube, Facebook, etc. from your DNS.
Because of this, I don't see many ads. But I have been an amazon customer since 1999 (according to what they say on their website when I'm logged in.) Looking at what they recommend for me, this personalization stuff is crap.
In music, Amazon recommends bands I never listen to like Montrose, Metallica, and the Doors (and to be fair, some people I've never heard of so I guess it is possible that I would be interested in them. Greta Van Fleet? William Patrick Corgan?)
In books, I do like scifi but they recommend a bunch of books with spaceships shooting each other on the cover - not what I have ever been interested in.
In the "humor and entertainment" section of books they do list some books that I would be interested in but, strangely, none of them are "humor" but are all academic books about videogames (which I am interested in). Even here the recommendation engine is very unsophisticated because in between academic books on videogames there are books on the art of Zelda and other coffee table books that I am not interested in.
And the first book in their recommended children's book section is 1984. (and I don't have any kids any way).
If this is the best they can do with 18 years of tracking my purchases then I am not worried.
You're making a huge mistake by judging a book by its cover in this case. The copy of the Foundation series that I had as a kid was very space opera looking too, and I've seen gaudy covers on everything from Dune to Kim Stanley Robinson. For Sci fi in particular, publishers have an incentive to trick a large chunk of the audience into thinking that its Star Wars-y, and there's not much incentive in signaling the things that you or I would get out these books.
However, I as well have been "disappointed" by the ability of websites to judge my interests. After reading about cases such as Target, who have "spooky" ability to gauge interest, I was expecting better.
So I searched for a very specific motorcycle jacket with very specific features and now my page is inundated with every clothing item that has the tag "motorcycle_jacket?" That's.... it? The same result I'd get for hitting google with "site:amazon.com 'motorcycle jacket'" ?
Similarly, Booking.com recommends hotel room offers in foreign cities where I've been on vacation: it doesn't have any tourism detection and analysis, it just thinks that I'm indiscriminately likely to return to the same places without realizing I visit one or a few major cities in a different country every year and then the museums and monuments are going to stay the same for a while. To be fair, they'd need data about my habits they (fortunately) cannot see to do a good job.
Target was able to get the spooky results because there is in fact a real correlation: girls who switch from scented products (soaps) to unscented are very likely to buy a maternity clothing in a couple months, and a few months latter baby products. Note that this all starts because then girl was buying scented products at target to begin with, and so the change in habit was the important part.
But Amazon, in this case, doesn't need to track other surfing habits, just his purchase history. That history is not affected by privacy addons.
But as I was making the exact same point a few days ago here on HN, someone responded to say that maybe it was on purpose, that if recommendations were too good they would creep us out.
Don't know what to think of it but I found the objection interesting...
Billy Corgan was the lead singer of Smashing Pumpkins. also has a lot of solo stuff.
seeing the full names rather than stage names of artists can be weird.
Most of the recommendations are items that I actually already purchased through them ("How about a second electric razor or some more batteries?") or items that I literally was just looking at while browsing ("We recommend these jeans that you just looked at"). Utterly useless.
"Here are some videos you've already watched, mostly that you've already liked, but also a few from the same channel, and even a helping of some you've disliked but which other people have uploaded duplicates of."
And that's Google, the AI experts, with a crapload of data on my viewing and others' viewing habits, including in depth learning features such as length of time spent on videos, liked videos, playlists, etc.
Come to think of it the recommended movies on Netflix is also crazy, but they may be screwing it towards their own selection.
But lets be honest even when I tell Facebook what my interests are, it can't give useful ads - and even mighty google assumed I was interested in Palaeontology at one point.
"...we have faster connections, better browser standards, tighter security and new media formats. But it is also different in the values it espouses. Today, we are so far from that initial vision of linking documents to share knowledge that it's hard to simply browse the web for information without constantly being asked to buy something, like something, follow someone, share the page on Facebook or sign up to some newsletter. All the while being tracked and profiled."
The author is absolutely right that the _values_ of the web have changed. IMO this is due to the much more vast penetration of the web and the bubbles which have been birthed as a result of attracting very aggressive profit-driven actors. Rebasing the web's economic model on advertising has fundamentally changed the conception of users, and the expectation of enormous profits has steamrolled the egalitarian principles of early web citizens.
I kind of hope that the web will reboot itself in dark corners, away from the mega actors, away from the tracking and surveillance, and the torrent of the current web can keep on going for the masses.
no love for firefox? or for that matter, any non webkit browsers?
>HERE WeGo for maps (free)
i'm not sure that's any better in terms of privacy
And even if it is faster, there track record shows that they found doing a release that slows down a large portion of users was acceptable. Granted I doubt they still have that attitude, and i think they are more performance based now, but a lot of us left for Chrome and never looked back.
And you don't have the same problem with Chrome? I've found Chrome to be a terrible resource hog lately, and sometimes I have to kill it to get my computer back to a usable state. And of course, I have to dig through all of the Chrome process and try to figure out which is the one that will take down the rest of them.
I'm OS X and I've had some CPU issues lately if I have a lot of tabs open but overall not nearly as many issues as when I finally decided to give up Firefox.
I actually downloaded Firefox lately and it seems pretty nice. If Chrome gets works I may consider it.
To kill: pkill "Chrome"
To suspend: pkill -SIGSTOP "Chrome"
To resume: pkill -SIGCONT "Chrome"
On android, Firefox mobile is by far the best browser, since it allows (some) extensions, and you definitely need one - microBlock origin. No effin' way I am going to use their official browser, web is beyond useless with all the ads.
The only reason Mozilla and Microsoft still use their own engine is for historical and technical reasons.
The fact that we are down to just three implementations should tell you were things are headed.
Microsoft will likely always use their own engine, simply because they are obsessed with proprietary software.
What if Microsoft doesn't ever get a significant number of users on Edge? Say websites and users alike treat it like Windows Phone.
That is a very unlikely edge case. If it were to happen, Servo is an open-source project, and would likely still see development.
> What if Microsoft doesn't ever get a significant number of users on Edge?
That is somewhat more likely, but as much as I can hope, probably will not happen. At least Edge renders fairly correctly.
> like Windows Phone.
Windows Phone simply failed to get inertia. Inertia is imperative for proprietary projects to succeed.
Edge came out in 2015 if it doesn't have inertia yet then you have to at least wonder if it's another Windows Phone.
I would venture to say that it does have inertia. As a browser, it does not need anywhere near the inertia a new closed platform (Windows phone) does.
Just let Chrome be the browser for the masses.
Mozilla seems to have become infected with the same ulterior-motive laden evil though. :(
Example happening at the moment:
> i'm not sure that's any better in terms of privacy
Yeah, I would recommend at least checking out OpenStreetMap and any tools that derive their routing and tiles from it first. Of course its usability varies by country (and even by locality!), but that's no different from Google Maps or Apple Maps.
At least with OpenStreetMap I know that my contributions benefit people in general (due to the free software licensing) and not mainly (the shareholders of) Google or Apple.
Modern capitalism means taking the money _and_ abusing the users, unless the users leaving from the abuse actually ends up reducing profits.
Email without outside encryption like PGP is fundamentally privacy by policy which lives and dies by the reputation and policy of the provider: it seems like Fastmail's is pretty good.
Are there any technical reasons why we couldn't have an "email in a box" type setup with an easy gui configuration? I've though of setting up a personal email/dropbox/IM/youtube box and the biggest hurdles I could think of were domain registration, bandwidth (for the youtube clone) and firewall rules. Lack of static IP's is also an issue but that seems solvable.
Of course, it depends on how you use it. If you send out a newsletter or other large quantities of emails you’re in for much pain, while if you tend to only send individual messages to a comparatively small group of people (and are thus a known sender) you’re likely to have an easier time of it—though you may still have some trouble occasionally.
(I’m a FastMail employee, but I don’t work on the backend side of things at all; I speak from casual experience mostly before FastMail. But I think that all of us that know anything about how hard it is to run your own mail server are ideologically sad about it; if FastMail wasn’t around, I suspect a substantial fraction of us would run our own mail server.)
I'm a non-user of all things social media. My Twitter account is purely nominal (for pinging company support), and I don't have a Facebook account. As a business owner, my peers think it's bizarre that I don't have a LinkedIn account. The problems this author talks about are chains of our own making. Yes, corporations exploit us, but they exploit human frailties. This problem will not go away, and more "open tech" will not solve it.
Forum design is the new frontier.
you can buy hn upvotes, which is the same as buying a top spot.
All sorts of people who weren't online suddenly were there, and businesses took a lot more interest in the lest tech savvy types who've started to populate the internet.
At the same time, these same mobile users saw they could be anonymous and had no learned netiquette unlike so many others before them.
So because of this new-user saturation, the internet became no longer niche and now mainstream, to the detriment of everyone else online.
Yes yes, Eternal September and all that, but were they wrong about the similar assessment back then?
Google succeeded because their pagerank algorithm discovered useful sites. But now those same algorithms promote popular (or Google-profitable) sites at the expense of higher-quality sites (that often carry no advertising). W3schools, anybody? It was probably a natural evolution: the algorithm ate itself, and results that might actually be useful are buried under sites that are popular. I think sites like Wikipedia and Google feeding off each other is a more insidious problem - one with no quick technological solution, like installing an ad blocker.
Firstly the downfall in the geocities-web came in many phases:
1. Spam Email Phase
2. Phishing / Nigerian phase
3. Popup phase
4. Autoplaying Flash/ActiveX phase
5. Pagerank phase (forums being ruined until rel=nofollow)
Now google, previously the main gateway to discovery, is pretty much useless for discovering new non-commercial content.
The way this could go away is only from a market shift; deleting your facebook won't bring back geocities. The fact is, if I had a geocities page it'd be undiscoverable due to pagerank, so I have no incentive to publish unless I have another avenue of attention (resume, Hn profile).
Can a non-commercial search engine ever exist? I suppose reddit/HN voting is one semi-successful method of content ranking...
I think no one will go back to the old web, although I agree it was an epic experience back then. For me it is totally logical that many people try to find a way to earn money on the internet, and in this economy there is in principle nothing wrong with that IMHO.
No one forces you to use Facebook, Google or any of the great services available. But people seem to forget that in life almost everything comes with a price. For Facebook and Google you pay with your (more or less private) data. So? If you think it's not a fair deal, simply don't use it! But please don't blame the entire web for that.
The web as it is now has soooo much more to offer than the old web that it is hard to even imagine! A few things I use that were impossible in the 90's, from the top of my head:
listen music on youtube, learn and use any programming language for free, git, open source, read the latest news in online
newspapers from remote countries, buy tickets online, airbnb, online banking, broadcast on twitter, social networks, slack,
OS updates, World of Warcraft/games, crypto currencies, etc.. etc...
> listen music on youtube
True by definition, but listening to and distributing music via computer networks has been going on since the 80s.
> learn and use any programming language for free
There were plenty of resources on that on the web in the 90s and on bulletin board systems in the 80s.
A complete side note since it has nothing to do with the web.
> open source
Many significant open/free software projects started in the 90s. NetBSD/FreeBSD since 93. GNU has been around since 83.
> read the latest news in online newspapers from remote countries
News websites surprisingly existed in the 90s as well. It is speculative to say that their increasing plurality owes anything to the current centralization trend.
> broadcast on twitter
Broadcast on your own personal website. Broadcast in a newsgroup. Broadcast by email. Broadcast on IRC.
> social networks
Bulletin boards. Email. Newsgroups.
> OS updates
Like, say, Slackware in the mid 90s?
> World of Warcraft/games
On-line, networked games existed before the web and don't really need to rely on it.
> crypto currencies
Again, not really dependent on the web.
Better browsers, broadband, tech usability improvements, smartphones, easy-to-use websites like Facebook, etc. lowered the barrier considerably. So maybe a lot of this is the influx of "dumb" people who can't be bothered to learn HTML to put up a page, or understand the privacy implications of the 450 surreptitious HTTP requests streaming along as they read their news article. ("dumb" is a little facetious here - in other words just ordinary people not as tech savvy or focused on intellectual pursuits as the web's early adopters).
Maybe try to put yourself in the shoes of someone who works 3 jobs as a single parent and uses their phone to look for new housing when they get evicted or sign up for online classes, instead of claiming broadly that “they can’t bother to learn HTML”. Not everyone is as privileged as the millions of teenagers who have hours and hours of free time every night and access to a computer+internet to learn how to code or the privacy implications of surreptitious HTTP requests.
If developers had spent the past few decades thinking of how to make technologies understandable, open, democratic - instead of insulting 99% of the population like you just did - perhaps we wouldn’t be in this mess.
I am speaking as a former dumbass privileged teenager/engineer who thought he was smarter than everyone else.
One of the laments in the article is the way the web has changed from the early days of simple HTML webpages people put up themselves focused on astrophysics etc., and I think that does speak to a difference of interests and abilities in the web's community over time.
And people do have differences in intelligence, as touchy and controversial a subject as it is. I say that not to make myself feel like some shining genius, I'm not, but commercial interests tend to exploit whatever they can exploit (unfortunately) and the shifting audience of the web likely made it easier to get away with a lot of this stuff.
The issue is that technologists insist on making a clear distinction between the “user” and the “developer”. If you hide the number of web requests away in an obscure, borderline illegible, “developer tools” pane, is it a surprise that the average user has no idea about what is going on in their browser? No one is interested about building a browser, or even an operating system for that matter, that focuses on making things understandable, learnable. That is part of the reason why we end up in situations like the ones described in the article.
Regarding differences in intelligence, that is not a particularly relevant point here. People have differences (plural) in intelligences (plural). Even one person has diffferences in intelligences throughout their life at many different scales - I was much better at physics back in college than I am now because I practiced it more, and yet I wouldn’t say I was more intelligent 10 years ago than I am now even though I could solve physics problems faster. There are even pretty big fluctuations in my intelligence in a single day based on how tired/frustrated I am, if I have concerns at the back of my mind, etc. All of these statements aren’t really relevant here, because we have systems that deliberately obfuscate how they work, which is a much bigger problem.
But with that said, I would have liked to have seen an article about accessibility have more talk about how the web is not only less accessible now for regular users but also even less accessible than it was before for people with disabilities such as blindness, color blindness, and even hearing loss.
I have a feeling we are in for a renaissance of simplicity, and its going to start with a page, and end with a page. Pages are scalable. Google has like 50 billion of them. Pages are nice. Now do me a favor and kill off react.js and every walled garden like Facebook.
Can we please just fix them from the inside? If you're an engineer at Facebook, why don't you take it upon yourself to actually do something about this mess?
I hope that this would remove most crap out there with some minor collateral damage. Also that the index would be small enough that a little fish like me could do it without massive cost or infrastructure.
I would like it to index information first and not care much about web apps. Sometimes within the information only site there could be a link to a webapp. I’m wondering if it would make sense to distribute whole index via torrent. Then search could be done locally. But for this too make sense it would have to be in an order of, at most, tens of gigabytes. The problem would be to make updates as small as possible and also to not use prohibitive amount of CPU time.
I don't have any monetization in mind as you probably should have guessed at this point. Probably if it would be frugal enough it could run from my pocket and hopefully some donations.
However I’m almost totally green in this area. I started a bit with learning how to index and search with SQLite's FTS5. I don't like dependencies too much and would like to keep the local version option available. So probably typical ElasticSearch and other Java apps are probably too heavy. You can safely ignore technical side of my comment if you know better. If someone is more capable to do this than me, please make it instead of me ;)
In many ways, I feel like technology doesn't work for us anymore, we work to serve technology.
Similarly, Square Cash hides their login page on the mobile cash.me site. You have to request the desktop site and actually go to cash.me/login to have any chance of using their mobile site. It's fucking crazy.
These companies will do anything to inflate their user count and get more access to more data to sell. Instagram is particularly egregious about inflating user count. You can make an account without even verifying your email, but you can't log in again or even delete your account without linking a valid phone number. There is probably a 7 figure number of abandoned accounts like that.
Stop referencing Cambridge Analytica. The headlines that their marketing produced just happen to fit so nicely in the techno-evil horror fluff stories we all as liberal leftists (myself included) so desperately want to eat. But find better references, please!
Facebook acquiring Instagram is a perfect example.
For each use case that is not a free browsing I create an electron app, that never executes any code from the web or uses any external style. It only uses XHR to fetch html pages/json data/other static stuff and then transforms that data and uses it in the custom UI designed for the use case.
Any references to similar projects (whether closed, commercial, or open-source) would be appreciated.
Fully disagree. You cannot legislate this problem away.
Among other implications, it should be much easier for regular people to create content, and applications should be free of the document-focused legacy.
For the web to be just documents, you have to go all the way and remove state entirely. Idempotence all the way down.
now we get loads of bad news websites, shallow overgrown aesthetic trends pushed as social advances, perpetual ads ..
Thanks to equifax, all my most important information is probably already out in the wild, and thanks to the US government (and how they deal with replacing identifying information) I'm likely screwed for the rest of my life. In the face of that, the harm that google or facebook (which I'll admit to using less and less of) can do to me seems trivial.
Yeah, as a user, I'm a commodity online. But I'll be damned if I'm not enjoying the bread and circuses they use to keep me there. There is little to nothing I can do to prevent anyone from doing anything with my information, so I might as well take advantage of what I've already "paid" for.
Brave new world, huh?
If this ever happens I will disable WebGL, and if this won’t be possible anymore (corporate interests…), I will invent a web competitor where participants are legally bound to my terms. Terms that will forbid ads, spying and spamming. Misbehaving users will experience increasingly long cool downs for misconducts, which can end in quasi bans (cool downs longer than their life). … One can dream.
Until then, keep riding the tiger!
This might be the best summary of "why the world is fucked" that I've seen.
With online services, there's no chance. They can even take copylefted software, modify it, use, and don't release. This is technically compliant with GPL2, but against its spirit. (A)GPL3 was made to combat this. I agree the license is complicated, verbose and very hard to enforce, but at least it's a try.
I think the problem is two-fold: data and software. The article focuses on user data, but it's not hard to believe a culture of closed source breeds a closed approach to user data.
We took a decentralized web full of potential, and we are leaving a wasteland of corporate garbage to our kids. If you used the web in the 90s you know what I am talking about.
Safari Version 11.0 (13604.1.38.1.6)
Nothing about that page seems like it would stop Reader so I filed a Radar about it.
(Please don't continue this. I just had to get it out of my system.)
Before I ever touch google, I want my search/address bar to look thoroughly through well organized, locally bookmarked content indexes.
The next stop before Google is indexes I've subscribed to. My friends, family, organizations, libraries, businesses, campaigns, wikipedia, etc.
After that, duckduckgo. If I haven't found it by then, google.
This kind of browser feature could make DAT/ipfs hypertext much more useful.
It’s one of the things that keep me on Firefox - it’s simply more usable!
(Personally, I’m convinced Google does it deliberately to gain more user attention time on their search service.)
The idea of having subscribed indexes is interesting! I often just want to search Wikipedia. The idea of indexes from friends or family sounds more like “trusted sources”, or the web of trust, or even GPG key verification. You’re saying I trust these sources more because I trust these people more.
I think doing this slightly in the background automatically (vs actively asking your friend for recommendations, or looking at a bloggers recommended materials page) could make the internet safer. It risks creating “bubbles”, but these should be a lot less significant than your own personal (Google) search bubble.
I'm imagining the possibility "encrypted queries" between trusted parties. You could allow people to send you a search query that is encrypted in some way such that you couldn't read it, but you could still run it on your local index and send them back a result. Storing not only your own well-structured index but numerous other parties indices as well could be way too expensive. Instead, it makes sense only to maintain a relatively small local index for when you're truly offline. But to allow others to search your index anonymously, perhaps in exchange for the ability to search theirs anonymously. You could let trusted parties search your content without actually revealing their search terms, which may contain sensitive terms, like "cancer" or "schizophrenia symptoms". Maybe this could be done in a way that also obscures who actually ran the query. This sounds like a challenge for zero-knowledge proofs and some kind of anonymous traffic routing system.
In practice, it'd be like a hybrid of anonymous distributed routing and anonymous distributed search.
The decentralized internet of anonymous chat servers, mail servers, and communication channels aren't dead. Most people simply do not like them.
To take the specific example of FB, most people don't want to be tracked and advertised to, they just want an easy social space to interact with their friends and family. Sure, they'd probably prefer an ad-free, non-tracking version of FB, but not if it costs them much effort. So, FB's growth hacking, advertising, and critical mass have pushed millions of people into something they themselves would consider sub-optimal (assuming it was explained to them, ofc -- many are plain unaware).
On top of that, the average user simply does not have the knowledge to make an informed decision. Not about what's technically happening, and certainly not about what the long term consequences will be, although arguably no one knows about that.
They seem fairly aware that Facebook and Google probably knows more about them than the NSA. And they don't care - because they can easily snap chat their kids or post pictures to their friends on pinterest. What's more, they sometimes even find the sales ads helpful.
Average users, in my opinion, are reasonably smart.
2. That wasn't my point. The question isn't: "Will they put up with sacrificing their privacy in exchange for the value they get?" We know the answer is "yes" to that. The question is: "Would they prefer to get the same service for the same amount of effort and not give up their privacy?" And I believe the answer to that is also "yes." And there is really no reason why that couldn't be the case. FB is not solving a technical problem that only they can solve.
I mention this because it's what obstructs my access to the Web I enjoyed so much before. I don't like reading news from whatever bloated sites news.google links me to, I don't like being redirected 3 times just to read a recipe, or getting movie recommendations in aggregate rather than from a single reviewer that I trust. But search engines lead users to these undesired things, and companies compete to get top search results, and the best way I find good websites is ironically offline.
Unrelated to that, as a HAM I've long (since 2000 or so) been preaching that if you want to know how internet will be changed by commercial and government interest, look into early radio history - it has many parallels with development of internet: an open, free to publish network primarily ran by enthusiasts that got progressively locked down until you had to be a major player to publish content on it, turned into ad-driven economy etc.
They ended up charging for everything after all, only through an indirect and vastly more complex, opaque, and far-reaching system.
* for those concerned with abusive ads/trackers, try Brave web browser, the browser most committed to privacy
* for those concerned about central chokepoints, start experimenting with 'decentralized web' technologies - the 'Beaker Browser'/DAT ecosystem is doing lots of interesting things; the blockchain-anchored namespaces, storage, or services promoted by Blockstack, Filecoin/Protocol-Labs, etc may soon offer compelling alternatives
The challenge though is trust, and of course transparency. Even if PrivacyBook (the mythical anti-facebook product) had paying customers and no tracking, how could you really verify that they weren't selling your information? And of course nation states always have a large hammer when they can put you out of business if you don't hand over data that they deem important.
In some ways DAO's are an interesting response to this, immune to pressure from nation states they may be able to provide a foundation for a distributed service that resists oversight. It might be a viable business plan if you could get more than the tin foil hat demographic to buy into it.
That's a lot of ad-tracking and ad delivery code. More than that, it's also remarkable that so much of this code is essentially duplicated. It's all user tracking and ad delivery but with each separate company loading it's own "stack" to accomplish the same thing.
It's part of a larger trend from content-centered and user-centered to advertising centered. The problem is not centralization per se but business built on advertising revenue. Facebook is an extreme example - the news feed algorithms are optimized for generating ad revenue and not necessarily favoring news reports that happen to be true.
Good pointers for making websites. :)
Most of my browsing habits these days centralise around HN and Reddit, with a sprinkling of RSS feeds via NewsBlur (although most RSS feeds are crap these days - truncated articles etc)
At home I use Pi-Hole to block DNS requests to known nefarious actors, so adverts are generally not a problem.
I can't help but feel that all these concerns are really not that much of an issue to the average user though. From a <insert corporation here> perspective, I'm wondering what their exposure rate is for their ads in terms of traffic - say if 10% of their users block ads - does the company even care that much?
It is amazing how much thought is put into looks and design of web pages that just ends scrambling everything during printout or just prevents to obtain any meaningful result (ie. imgur)
I look around and see options to share on tweeter, pinterest, tumblr, reddit, facebook. But no print button that would make it easy to archive. It is like articles are disposable and not thought to be of any reference in future (even highly technical ones).
Well worth a read if, you too, are finding ways to escape from and minimise the impact of this web-dystopia.
His suggestions are well worth a careful read. I suggest going further. Many of you are quite capable of making your own web based facilities, know people who you can collaborate with... In short you're in a position to actually make your own web environment. An environment that grows your own cognitive abilities, that enables you to learn well, that enables human growth instead of diminishing brain function.
It's a good idea to take control. Shape your own web, don't let it shape you.
Many people here forget that all the things they got for free are often the result of hard work and lot a love from people who do it because they like it. So instead of complaining about the vicious tracking, just support those who build another web.
And too bad if it's too expensive for your activists to make a better youtube.
The entire first screen is some guy blithering about himself. Cory Doctorow says all this, better.
Diaspora would be a good idea if it had any traction. Until then, we're stuck with Facebook.
Google, not so much. Most of Google's services have quite good alternatives. I don't use any service that requires a Google account. With Google reading and censoring what you put in Google Docs, that's probably a bad idea anyway.
I guess I'm just stating the obvious.
Now 100% sure how to fix this - but it hard problem.
Glad to know Archive.org will still be around in 20017.
Typical ‘Back then xxx, we must yyy’ talk. No, you can’t, enjoy the freedom of average user to put his personal life on the internet, not think twice, create a market to exploit and exploiter to come. It is the essence of freedom on average, you wanted it for “everyone”.
Cedexis is not an ad-delivery platform. It's a multi-cdn platform that allows you use multiple cdns under the hood and picks optimum cdn based on the user's location.
OP loses credibility when making such false accusations just to make their point.
Webbkoll ought to offer a badge the same way "Verified by Verisign" did when SSL was new.
Hopefully the internet follows the organic food movement. Too many people tired of crap push for a change.
Anybody else read it that way? ;-)
1) He blames the fall of the web on all the people (web designers, UX designers, developers, creative directors, social media managers, data scientists, product managers, start-up people, strategists) that works towards creating it but I think the problem is more the people that have changed the culture around the web, namely that it has to be monetized. The aforementioned "architects of the web" are just there to create content but they're not the ones that need to load it up with tracking codes, tag managers, and DRM. The people that monetized the web are the ones that broke it.
2) The culture of the internet is completely different now and I think it's because the barrier of entry for the internet is so low now. Consider that, up until a few years ago (5-10 maybe, or longer?), it took some amount of knowledge and/or skill to use the internet. Everyone couldn't just jump on the web. You had to know enough about how to use a computer to install the software, you had to be educated enough to connect the hardware and install drivers, and you had to know how to find information. Even more so, if you wanted to contribute to the web, you needed to know some kind of programming language and at least basic HTML, how to get those pages on to a server, and how to connect it all to a domain. It wasn't all just a Google search away from whatever word-vomit is advertised the most and pushed up to the front via SEO and Facebook/social media. Now, anyone can get on the internet. Almost every person on the planet has some access to the web and adding to the bucket of knowledge and data on the web is done via WYSIWYG editors and text comment boxes that require nothing more than the ability to use a keyboard. YouTube comments and Facebook comments are complete shit for the very reason that it doesn't take any amount of effort to post them.
3) Intellectual property on the internet is a mess and, as the article has pointed out, everything is starting to centralize instead of the decentralized web of the past. There is severe bit-rot that happens that didn't happen before simply due to the fact that a YouTube video can now be automatically taken down, without cause, over even the suspicion or false claim that it contains copyrighted content. The amount of content that has disappeared off the internet because of a DMCA takedown is heartbreaking, especially when you consider that a lot of other content embeds it or references it. The web's greatest feature, the hyperlink, is now its biggest downfall because corporations and greedy assholes can take down content just by accusing it of violating copyrights. They don't even have to own it to make a claim. In other words, the ability to rot that content is far easier and more automated than the ability to protect that content. Politicians the world over have done their part to sell us all out and reinforce this negative cycle instead of protecting the backbone of the internet.
All in all, the internet used to be about sharing information. Now it's about cashing in on everything possible and, to the author's credit, he's at least identified that commoditization is a huge part of that problem. It's not the only problem, though. Tracking is a symptom, not the cause.
Unfortunately, though, it seems to me that people generally adopt one of the 3 camps:
* Don't care (that is, most users until their internet slows)
* Business of humanity is business. Anyone disagrees with the previous sentence is socialist/communist/hippie/devil-spawn.
* "GIVE ME LIBERTY OR GIVE ME DEATH." Ready to leave Google/Facebook/AWS at moment notice.
I mean, it's important to know what bad large firms have brought forth with the internet. But it's equally important to acknowledge what they (and commerce in general) have enabled, as well as what advantages they possess to users in everyday life.
To take a simple example: the article ends with a question: "Do we want the web to be open, accessible, empowering and collaborative? [...] Or do we want it to be just another means of endless consumption[...]?"
Look, about 80% of the time, I do want mindless consumption. Maybe a stupid sitcom on one of the streaming service; maybe some cheesy pop over YouTube. I need that. And, you know what, the current arrangement is damned good at deliver that kind of consumption.
Thus, condemning the status quo wholesale is either useless or extremely risky. Look, the status quo is status quo for a reason. How did Amazon get so big? Not because they send out goons to smash windows of local bookstores! They get big because they provide genuine value (large selection, stellar customer service, fast shipping, etc.). Google got so big because they are very very good with organization of information and extremely good with matching customers and advertisement. Apple got so big because they produce(d) beautiful products. Facebook got so big because they connect people together. Uber got so big because they make taxi-ing so convenient (and cheap). These businesses got there for good reasons.
Except the case where you find way to provide the same (or at the minimum almost the same) value with free and open ecosystem, status quo remains. Sure, you can host your own fonts and pictures and videos, but then they will be served from your hosts. Have you invested billions of dollars in gateway to be near your customers? Have you invested many hundreds of engineering-years to test over as many browsers as you can find? And remember, you are probably a power user of the internet. How about everyone else? Does everyone need to learn how to administrate GNU/Linux to post views of the world?
Without providing the same value, revolutions tend to fall short of their promises. Take American Revolution. They proclaimed "All Men are created equal," killed a bunch of people (many innocent), then proceeded to keep slavery anyway. And that's one of the most successful revolutions. French Revolution produced an emperor to replace a king. English Revolutionary failed. Paris Commune failed. Russian and Chinese Revolutions were followed by famines. And so on.
Imagine the internet without Google, Facebook, and AWS. You know what will happen next? Somebody else will become Google, Facebook, and AWS. Look at China: sure, they are independent from Google and Facebook; and they have Baidu and Weibo. Google, Facebook, Amazon, AWS serve important needs. You can't not have someone like them.
In other words: all of these protests are useless and/or harmful without careful consideration of the underlining economics and usage. And I am not sure if anyone has gotten around to figure out an economic model for free web yet.
People, you have to understand this: There exists a large number of others out there who desperately want government reformed, want more localized control over their lives, and who voted accordingly. It wasn't some trick pulled on them by corporations or Russians manipulating social media. I realize that may be hard to understand, but it is the truth!
The rest of the article was well-intentioned, but somehow just a bit off. We can't go back to 1999 or 1993, but we can limit the walled gardens and censorship if we want to. But this is important: It's not the freedom-minded people who want to shut down free speech or filter and censor, it is the dyed-in-the-wool Marxist hardliners and the corporatists.
The problem of unachievable slogans is hardly a new one but it has got much worse lately. Injecting more lies into the political process is not going to improve this.
You're right. That 350mn pounds/week for the NHS is right around the corner.
Brexit was nothing but a huge con.
I'll agree with you on Donald Trump. His terribleness was pretty obvious and open right from the beginning. Nothing we've seen from him wasn't evident during or before his campaign.
Don't we objectively know this is false? You can dispute the size of the effect, but both Russians and corporations absolutely ran large targeted misinformation and propaganda campaigns for the 2016 election, taking advantage of what you could call the user-hostile web. The intelligence communities, congress, and big tech companies all agree on this now... Your distortion may be a bit more qualified than Donald Trump's daily fabrications, but it still intends to deceive on what is an objective fact all the same.
Billions and billions spent by U.S. actors as opposed to less than a million spent by Russian actors! Russian efforts are immaterial and likely were intended for commercial reasons rather than political ones. (RT wants views!)
I'm getting tired of this obtuseness. Russia had negligible impact and there's nothing out there showing they did. So far what we have is speculation and finger pointing like I've never witnessed post-election.
The disastrous 2016 election is just dragginggggggg outtttt foreverrrrr.
Are there know cases where China recently meddled with foreign elections/governments?
As much as I agree with that statement I don't think it's necessarily framed like that in the essay but is rather used as a case in point example with quite some validity.
Social media and the whole "attention economy" have become quite influential without people even noticing that influence.
This might just be the culmination of a trend we've been seeing for quite a while already. Afaik Obamas campaign also was quite big data and social media driven, but when he did it that was somehow something "positive" to show how "in touch with the Millenials" he is.
The data I present here suggests that before we keep pointing fingers at specific countries and tweeting about companies “hacking the election,” as well as to solve the scourge of “fake news,” it might be good to look inward. By this, I mean we should start the quest for transparency in politics with a few firms based in New York City and Silicon Valley.
Albright is an ex-Googler and director of a journalism centre at Columbia University.
You really trying to equate Marxists and corporatists??? Dude...
Thank you for taking time to consider the effects of media spin and not take everything you read at face value. If more people made the same effort we'd be a lot better off.
They can. Media spin includes the spin driven by governments, that's why spin doctors exist:
When I say media spin, I'm referring to lies and half-truths spread through the media. I'm not suggesting it has to be the media owners that are doing the spinning.
> "I don't understand why the facts that that a large number of people want government reform and that corporate and government forces were spending money to influence the election cannot exist side by side."
They can. However, what's not commonly considered is that people may have been acting in their own self-interest.
I'm not from the US, and I would never have voted for Trump. However, I can see how the media has portrayed Trump voters, and it doesn't take a rocket scientist to realise that the media portrayal is missing the wood for the trees. The main options commonly given for why people voted for Trump is that either they were manipulated by the media or they share some of Trump's negative personality traits.
However, if you look at polls about what people care about in an election, the same thing comes out top time and time again. The economy. It seems that many people don't follow politics that closely, but what they do understand is that it has an impact on the economy, and they care about jobs.
So let's look at this from a purely economic perspective. When faced with a choice between Trump and Clinton, putting personality aside, are there any economic reasons why someone might have chosen Trump over Clinton?
The main message I hope to get across is that if the media you consume is conveniently packaging a set of memes about a subject, you can be almost certain they're missing out on details. Real life is messy and chaotic, boiling down the motives of the general population to easy to consume soundbites is unlikely to accurately capture the thoughts of hundreds of millions of people. That's why it's useful to look beyond the headlines, and look to understand those you disagree with. Partisan biases weaken the health of public discourse. Were there people who voted a certain way because they were manipulated into it? I don't doubt it. However, that's not the full picture.
I also thought it was pretty weak of the author to shoehorn these things in his essay. All politicians/parties use "big data" for their campaigns, don't you think the democrats were doing the same thing? And since he's from France, he conveniently forgot to mention the Macron campaign last spring.
This topic is too important to point fingers like that.
I agree with everything else in the post though.
For me that was the good part. I like the web, actually like facebook and don't give a damn that people collect data on me to try to show me ads that uBlock then blocks.
Having whole countries screwed by idiot politics however is a problem.
Sorry for being so blunt, but you got played. I remember living in the UK prior to deeper EU integration, and it sucked. Every country had its own standards for modems and used it as a protectionist tool to keep 'foreign' technology out or at least much more expensive. You didn't have real local control, you had much more centralized control that was not structured in the interests of the general public. It was a great number for the politicians: blame anything you don't like on Brussels (even if it is self-evidently good for consumers), take credit for anything you can hang a patriotic label on, and centralize as much as possible so the people in the national government can be the big fish in the small pond, while pretending to be the heroic defenders of the pond against foreign sharks.
you see the same thing in the US - conservative politicians rail against 'big government in Washington DC' while simultaneously passing legislation that limits the ability of municipalities to govern themselves, eg by creating public fiberoptic networks or setting policies that give people more rights than the people in the state capitol wish.
I could also make critiques of liberal politicians who to some extent do the same thing at the city vs. the neighborhood level; I don't want to be partisan. But if you voted for Brexit or Trump because you believed you, the little person with no political power, would be better off then you have been fleeced and told that your political enemies are attacking you with a wind machine.
It's not the freedom-minded people who want to shut down free speech
Oh yes, those nice freedom-minded people who also want to engage in ethnic cleansing and have neo-nazis on speed dial. It's freedom for themselves, not you. See for yourself: create a few sockpuppets, go to /pol/ or wherever you like to hang out, and try expressing some polite mild opinions out of step with the rest of the forum.
PS look into how Cambridge Analytica operates and tell me these people are trying to maximize your freedom. To them you're just a vote and a voice to be harvested. You'll probably hear more about this in days to come as Robert Mercer is frantically re-organizing his financial holdings.
The SV culture made it valuable for startups to amass a large amount of users.
Where as before this bubble started, it was more profitable for development shops to build (and sell) software that anyone can use to host their own site/forum/whatever.
This might not be the entire solution, but I think it would be a step in the right direction:
We need more products that are developed for people to deploy on their own private servers. They have to have some very compelling points that I think are still lacking in many existing solution:
- They have to be really really fast. Nothing in "python" or "nodejs" or whatever.
- They have to be really really easy to deploy. No requiring a separate database server such as mysql. Just use SQLite. Also, no copying over of tons of files. Just a single executable. All other data should live in the database (sqlite file). Maybe have two database files: one for user generated content, and one for bundling application resources (images, etc). I'm not exactly sure what's the best setup, but something along those lines.
- They have to be profitable for people who develop them.
This is more of a cultural issue.
I love open source, but requiring all software to be "free" means that it's much more profitable to create a product for yourself only and try to lure as many users as possible, just like facebook.
To this end, I think something like the physical source initiative makes a lot of sense: if you buy the software, you have the right to make changes to it. But you don't have the right to also copy it and distribute it.
Most packages in python or nodejs? Install and run through package managers just fine.
Having a statically linked binary will not always magically solve this, but it's a great step in that direction.
The other step is not relying on any external servers or services, e.g. postgresql, redis, etc.
The rest just boils down to programmer discipline. Never introduce something that can potentially cause a headache to the end user.
If you're building on an interpreted language, you can't really do that. You will always at least require the user to have a specific version of python/node/whatever.
This can get complicated if the user has a different version, so now you have to introduce a virtualization layer that can manage several different versions of the environment. These tools are always annoying to use.
Not to mention that some packages could have native dependencies (e.g. a python library having a dependency on a c library) and this is almost always a source of headaches.
Python and Node interpreters are EXEs that are NOT easy to install and configure for 95+% of end-users
> Inevitably, something breaks because of my machine's particular configuration.
Indeed. Like a screwed up $PYTHONPATH
> On the development side, building to that magical executable is an even bigger nightmare.
I do not understand.
> Most packages in python or nodejs? Install and run through package managers just fine.
This implies you are familiar with WHICH interpreter you are calling and that you know where it is installed so you can call it.
None of this is easy for end-users.
If there is ever something that looks nice and shiny but will invariably cause me grief in getting working, it is written in some interpreted language (Python seems to be a particularly good at messing with me) that want everything to be in some very peculiar way.
And this trend of every new language coming with its own package manager is troubling me, as it means that developers will be even more lax about documenting their dependencies...
Luckily there are many many useful libraries available with very liberal licenses.
This is the only way to profit off of GPL licensed libraries.
"That's capitalism, baby."
Of course if the dems make a comeback in the midterms, watch them all go into full-blown social-media relapse.
Cant take this seriously right? You treasure the web, yet you are on facebook.