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I Don’t Know How to Waste Time on the Internet Anymore (nymag.com)
451 points by minimaxir 5 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 328 comments



I think a lot of people here are missing the point. Yeah, there's a lot more content to consume now. However, it doesn't feel like a community... it feels more like watching reruns on TBS.

I remember making actual friends on message boards. Friends I eventually met in the real world. I don't think relationships like that are really formed anymore. Most of social media now is a broadcast, not a conversation. People (myself included) want upvotes, retweets and more followers. And now, real identities are involved, so they have to be professional.

Back when I started using the internet, there were no "celebrities". At most, there were community leaders, and their "reach" was within the same order of magnitude of the rest of the community. And to be one of those leaders, you needed to learn HTML and build a community the hard way. Nobody was trying to get famous, get more likes, etc. They just talked and made stuff and shared content and learned.

Sure, maybe it is just an age thing, and nothing has really changed. But I don't know... I feel like the Internet used to be something special, and now it feels like flipping through TV channels in your office break room.


I think a major factor is the fact that the internet is now mainstream. In the early days, you had something in common with everybody, simply by being on the internet. The place was silly with people absolutely floored by the idea that they were casually chatting with someone halfway across the continent, something only possible on very expensive phone calls until then. Everybody was also, by necessity, an early technology adopter.

It's much easier to strike up a conversation with a stranger when you have something meaningful in common, and the early internet was that. Today, it's the equivalent of walking down the street, it's just infrastructure. Infrastructure is great, but it doesn't help you make friends.


Internet data connection might be mainstream, but Internet, as in websites, blogs, genuine, independent content, is really not.

There are places where the internet is Facebook. I remember times when the internet was a blue E on the desktop, but at least that really did take people to the internet, and not a walled garden.


The idea that the Internet is just Facebook for most people is absurd. Yes, there exist people who essentially only use Facebook, but this is not the norm.

Google is worth 755 billion dollars, and they didn’t get there just by being the easiest way to find Facebook. Pinterest has amassed a 12 billion dollar valuation just for managing to insert themselves between Google search results and a the billion blogs you think most people don’t even know about.


> The idea that the Internet is just Facebook for most people is absurd.

I don't think he meant that, but rather the opposite. That while more people use the internet than ever before, they're subdivided in how they use it. To some people (not most; pmlnr's wording is "there are places") the internet is just Facebook, and that creates the effect of a smaller community of "internet users" where there is more in common between a pair of individuals than 2 strangers with vastly different uses of the real vast internet.

Note that the point of his post was to counter (though it doesn't entirely refute) the point of mseebach, which was that people had much less in common between strangers in the internet now that it's become mainstream.


It's very much what he said. "Internet data connection might be mainstream, but Internet, as in websites, blogs, genuine, independent content, is really not."

He specifically says that using the internet for blogs and websites (i.e. things other than Facebook) is not "mainstream". Maybe the Facebook comment was not intended to say that's what the "mainstream" use case is, but that's how it reads, and I'm frankly not sure what mainstream usage would be if it's not "websites".


There are countries and providers where free phone data is facebook and maybe a few other providers - see internet.org . For them, facebook, witn instant articles, is the internet, having no actual data connection.

Like it or not, the general public uses fb/google or wechat, maybe, but only maybe, read a few news site, do banking, even less buy things on amazon, which, out of US, UK and DE rather nonexistent, and that's it.

Think outside of the US, please.


4 billion people have internet connectivity. 2 billion use Facebook.

Literally half the people with internet connectivity do not use Facebook at all, much less exclusively.


While what you say is true, I can't see what this has to do with the US. For all we know, dpark might not even be in the US.


I can see how you can interpret that sentence in isolation as talking about websites in general. In fact, I'm not sure why I didn't interpret it that way first, too, but I interpreted it as talking about particular websites. In other words, it's not about HTTP vs FTP or IRC, but e.g. Facebook vs Twitter or StackOverflow or allrecipes.com.

I probably read it like that because of his following paragraph, which talks about how particular websites have this "walled garden" feel and how some people don't move much away from them to the point that they consider these particular websites to be the whole internet. Since the topic of this subthread is about how people of the internet have less in common now that it's become mainstream, that interpretation seemed to contribute better by raising the point that, to many people whose interpretation of the internet is a "walled garden" like Facebook, their "internet" has not become mainstream, or at least not on the level of the "internet data connection" or the real internet.


Actually it's not that absurd, Facebook has deals with mobile carriers which gives the users cheaper or even free access to Facebook compare to other "normal websites and apps".


There’s still some of that in IRC. IRC clients serve as a barrier that filters out a surprising number of people.


Just like in the real world: You don't go out on the street to meet people, you use the street to get to the place where the people you're likely to enjoy meeting are likely to be. IRC might be one such place, but there are many others - HN is one, even if not directly social in nature.


There's still some for sure, but I can't help but notice how empty IRC communities are these days.

Bigger ones like #node.js/#javascript on freenode are about 10 people strong if you actually count the regulars.

Frankly I think something like Slack is a better middleground for most communities. People are filtered out because they have to be bothered to install Slack and join the community. Yet it has community-building features that IRC doesn't have, like the likelihood that someone will get messages when they are offline/away and that they will actually come back.


EFNet is still running strong! Plenty of good chats and communities around if you look for them. Freenode operator abuse is antithetical to community chats.


Any channels in particular? I've seen mostly freenode mentioned everywhere.


There's a bunch of niche channels I like such as #mircart and #efnetnews for just having a laugh. #2600 seems to be one of the main "lobby" channels. Other channels like #electronics and #chemistry for more technical talk. There are a bunch of troll factories like #stress and #depression which some people enjoy I guess.


Great metaphor, the infrastructure. Like a street you go somewhere, if there is somewhere to go. And like a pipe something come down the shoot, but do you want it in the first place?


Thanks, but it's not really a metaphor. The internet is literally infrastructure. Sometimes, when new and exciting infrastructure opens, such as the first metro line in a city, it's a destination in it's own regard for a brief while, and a good place to meet fellow railroad nerds, but then it just becomes infrastructure, and it's not a particular good place to meet anyone.


It's definitely changed and it happened slowly so we didn't notice at first. In the 90s and the early aughts the social fabric of the Internet was comprised of a number of small communities, each of which had a distinct membership and culture.

By the 2010's the big players had come along and supplanted these Internet communities. Facebook talks all the time about its "community" but it's more like a theme park which gets visited by billions of people, and your friends all hang out around one ride but so do a thousand other randoms. You'd have to be a PR spokesperson to look at that and call it a community.

All the big social networks employ this model of throwing everyone into the same arena but humans aren't wired to feel at home in that environment, so we get all these weird side effects like social media causing depression, loneliness, and the angst expressed by this writer.

Reddit is the only one that hearkens back to the old days a bit -- each community has local moderators and a somewhat distinct culture, but the corporate overlord is still there sanitizing, monetizing, and occasionally messing with people's posts.

I think the language issue is especially interesting, did we fail to recognize that our communities were dying because we lack a word for the thing that supplanted them?


> All the big social networks employ this model of throwing everyone into the same arena but humans aren't wired to feel at home in that environment, so we get all these weird side effects like social media causing depression, loneliness, and the angst expressed by this writer.

That is an amazingly good point - its very easy to be lost and lonely in a crowd.


Mayhaps not perfectly applicable, but your last line reminded me of this:

> Sheridan: Once during the war, my fighter was disabled. I sat there, radio out, power out, for eight hours, which seemed like eight years. I didn't think I'd ever see another living being. Well, I was rescued, obviously, but.. I'll never forget that.. feeling of helplessness. I, I never thought there could be anything worse than being all alone in the night.

> Delenn: But there is. Being all alone in a crowd. You feel cut off from your people, from your government. You even begin to doubt yourself. I understand it so well, that it cuts to my heart.

-Babylon 5 2x14, There All the Honor Lies, 1995


I doubt one can ever be truly depressed in a Intergalactic Starfighter - sounds too much fun ;-)


This is pretty much how I felt as a long-time TF2 player super excited for Overwatch to come out, and then very sad once I realized what kind of game it was. You grab your friends and play Overwatch, while you play TF2 and meet your friends.

And also a parallel, TF2 obviously still exists, but all of the servers I used to play on are gone now.

Haven’t found anything else quite yet. FFXIV actually was super enjoyable from a community perspective, but I’m not super into MMOs.


This is a thing that's bugged me for a long time: the death of dedicated game servers. Game servers had to be run by communities, and they were gateways and feeding grounds for those communities.

However, games don't typically use dedicated servers anymore; they use matchmaking. You're right -- matchmaking means you gather your friends first. More insidiously, it means you probably won't see the same players again, and even if you did, there's nowhere to find them again later. There's no community to join.


> More insidiously, it means you probably won't see the same players again, and even if you did, there's nowhere to find them again later. There's no community to join.

This actually reflects a change I remember WoW making and finding really hard to accept. They changed the rules for "find a dungeon" such that you didn't match people on your own server. Which seems great - because now there's no need to wait 10 mins for a group to accumulate! No spamming in regional chats to see if anyone is interested. Brilliant non?

Except when you made groups with people on your own server, you bumped into them again. You were probably a similar level/gear. You might add them as a friend and then ping them for instances because they were competent (especially if tank/healer). Heck, if they're in a guild maybe you think it'd be a cool group of people to play with or vice versa you might try and add them to your guild.

When every person you meet in game is a "single serving friend" there's no point making an effort. People will treat those they play with as essentially NPCs helping towards a quest because why wouldn't you?

I refuse to believe that it made people more engaged (considering the friends I made were a good chunk of the motivation to keep playing)


I quit WOW at about that time, I played from release, the golden days were TBC && WoTLK, but the rot set in when 40 mans were retired. Doing a 40 man and getting the gear from a 40 man was a defining ambition of guilds, not many guilds managed to set themselves up to do regular 40 man runs and you had to ladder up the 40 man content when you did - molten core and on and up. This pressure and ambition drove really strong social behaviour; act up and you'd be kicked, and that's your chance of the end game gone. Tolerate idiots in the guild and risk a split or a leak of defectors. The problem was that the spreadsheets at Blizzard showed that only about 5% of the players were getting to experience the end game. So... they went to 25 man, then they opened 25 man to pickup queues and the drivers for pve guilds faded.


I readily agree that old school WoW was much more social and fun, but personally, most of the enjoyment of the game for me was only possible because I was a 20-something with no spouse, no kids, and no real responsibilities outside of showing up to work during the day.

Now that I'm a practicing Adult®, I still kinda dream of WoW Classic being what we all remember the original game being, but I also know that if I got that involved in planning and running raids now, people who rely on me to be responsible would suffer. I'm content with being part of the 95% that don't have that kind of free time to commit to planning before actually playing a game.


Yes - there's no going back, life changes! It's like Rugby.

I used to enjoy Rugby, but I was 17, if I played Rugby now I would enjoy it. But I am glad it's available for 17 year olds who want a go.

One thought though, my guild has actually re-awoken in the last few months. I'm still on the mail list - as apparently was everyone else, and now people are talking about doing instances and so on. I couldn't have done it until recently, because I had small children - so as everybody knows, fugetaboutit. But, if WOW was in TBC state with some interesting new content I'm pretty sure I would jump in.


Part of this is the access to engagement within the game. As games rely more and more on multiplayer (think LoL/DotA, Overwatch, WoW Raids requiring a group), to get to the actual content you want you need to assemble a team, either programmatically via matchmaking or by existing friends.

And the waits can be very long in competitive scopes to have a good match. I can only speak from LoL as an example, but our group like most had people bounding around all levels of play, so matchmaking could take a long time. The team's MMR undoubtedly was an accurate representation, but this also probably meant there was a very narrow set of ready to go teams that were reasonably fair matches. Prior to Riot's heavy handed overhaul of the Matchmaking, this sometimes would result in some absolutely uneven matches (a bunch of Diamonds getting piled onto a group with 1 Diamond and several bronzes/unranked.

Pre-overhaul, it often mean a 20 minute stomp. Post-overhaul, it means waiting, sometimes 20 minutes+ to get a simple game, when most of us only have an hour or two spare.

It's a difficult balance for designers, and I don't envy what they have, but the nature of a lot of games has changed to require the participation. The logistical challenges of providing fair/balanced as well as fast matchmaking while still letting players play with their friends (however many they have) is a real hellish problem to solve, as the solutions are often at odds with one another.


“Convenience” or getting the player to get the next dopa hit, is not the way the real world is built.

The real world has slow periods and other issues which are usually where the various other aspects of humanity play out.

By definition, games and social media optimize for whatever measurables are measurable AND accretive to the bottom line.

On top of it, most of this current tech world is built on American sensibilities in terms of optimization and business models.

The rest of the human part of existence is.... not optimized for in this universe.

Also do note, people still figure out a way to make friends.

People end up recognizing each other even through random match making, or due to local lobbies.

It’s not all doom and gloom.


Yeah I was talking with some people about this a few days ago actually. The change is not entirely bad, though. For example, in my own case, I actually like the change. I'm not 22 years old anymore (as I was when Burning Crusade came out and I was at the height of my 'raiding career'). I don't have the time to join a raiding guild to see end-game content, and I don't have the time to sit in Stormwind spamming Trade to form groups for things. I like how the group finder makes it easier to just do the content and get some gear and experience the game without time commitment.

Of course nothing is free and as you've rightly pointed out it has come at the expense of the cohesion of individual server communities. The WoW Forums, back in the old days, were full of inter-server rivalries for raiders and when they brought in cross-realm matchmaking in the patch prior to BC there was some nice rivalry for PvP within server groups -- you could still only group with people from your own server but you would be matched against other servers. That's all gone now. It seems like it's impossible to know if you're even on your "own" server because of the way the phasing works now.

Anyway not sure where I'm going with this. tl;dr I agree with you but the change isn't entirely bad.


If you friend them through whatever walled-garden chat system that game has, then you might have a chance. But good luck getting conversions to a proper gaming community.

I think a lot of this has to do with how casual the gaming community has become. Not that there are fewer hardcore players, just that the very games that killed the dedicated servers (call of duty) also onboarded millions of casual gamers who felt like using gamespy to find "good" servers was too much effort.

Now there are so many casual gamers that you have almost no chance to find someone who deeply appreciates a game enough to join a community you are in. My internet statistics generator says that 1-in-10 is a good ratio for number of conversions 20 years ago. Now it's maybe 1-in-500.

And if the game is popular enough, then everyone's just going to use the subreddit to chat by default, and that's a clusterfuck of a topic all on its own.


I remember playing at a single server on CoD4 online. Because you went to the same server you didn't flame, because you would be playing with the same people the next time...

And lots came from that. I went to two LAN parties eventually with people from that server, after playing together and talking on TS for hours. It was a lot of fun and I miss that sense of community in games.

Now I click a button in League or Fortnite and they throw me in a lobby... Everyone is shit to each other because you never see the others again anyways.

Maybe it's just nostalgia though


It has kinda taken the fun out of video games for me, at least multiplayer. I used to have a few games where there was a server that I could join and find people I know but I don't even know where I'd begin to look these days.

And yeah I've tried games with matchmaking, mostly Dota and CS:GO but they are only good fun if you have friends going into a game, otherwise it feels like 9/10 times you end up with as you said, people that are awful to eachother.


I miss this so much. I used to play TF2 on a server that ran a single, somewhat obscure, map. Lots of randoms would drop by to try the map; some would stay and become regulars, some wouldn't. I did. The same regulars would be there every week, many of them every day. Some players were good, some not so good, nobody took it too seriously - we tried hard, but nobody got salty. There was the odd feud, but no griefing. They had alltalk voice chat on, and there was a constant stream of entertaining chit-chat. One guy would come on half-cut and start lecturing about physics. We had a half-joking clan tag, someone set up a website with a forum, there was a challenge match against an American clan at some point. Good times.

It's been rubbish since matchmaking came in.


I used to run a TF2 server that ran some stupid hack I found that played shitty music nonstop (GBS.fm) through a widget that loaded on the welcome screen. Lots of people hated it, but everyone kept coming back for how fun the vibe was.

So fun. I miss it too.


I feel like the death of dedicated servers has in part led to the rise in toxicity in games. In community servers, if someone was being rude or annoying they would get kicked. Nowadays you just hit the report button and hope eventually they are dealt with. In the meantime you're stuck with them until the next game.


They are not dead, but their numbers certainly diminished. There are still UT99, Jedi Knight II servers out there.


That's good and bad.

Good: You can finally play the game as it was meant to be. You could not find a decent server in CS 1.6 where you could play 5v5. You need additional sites/communities/XYZ (e.g. ESL) to play it. Similar with TF2 in the early days. Also, bad admins can't kick you anymore because you use a weapon they don't like. I could forgive such behaviour, but as games introduced some leveling or other statistic stuff, I can't. Just make your server unranked (nobody playing on these).

Bad: No sense of community. Like you said, you need friends first. Reports for cheating are useless, as you won't see that person again anyway.


The leveling and statistical stuff is so lame anyway. I feel like CS and TF, the point was to dick around and shoot people. It was cool because you bought half-life and could play these two totally different games (we referred to them as “total conversions” at the time).

The ranking stuff is all just trying to capitalize on esports, which is weird because the vast majority will never be that good anyway. It’s a big part of what makes various communities toxic rather than fun. Playing a game where winning doesn’t really matter vs. people dreaming of being paid to play video games. It’s turning something that was a fun sort of power fantasy to kill time in, into something misconstrued as a profession. (In the same way an average guy might believe Himself of the quality to play DB for the colts, without the ability to discern the obvious physical differences between himself and a guy who is 6’5”, can bench 450 pounds and run 30 miles an hour. It actively creates these sort of mean/ delusional types who are harder to laugh off than they would be in another arena.


What was the first thing to be called a "total conversion"? The Aliens: Total Conversion mod of Doom?


Yeah, definitely one of the doom mods.

I'm not familiar enough with the history as I was pretty young when doom came out. Hacking on Doom and Marathon mods was my first experience with programming of any sort.


FYI- MidAir is a new TRIBES like game that is using dedicated servers.


Same experience with TF2 and older games of course. You would get to know the regulars to particular servers. Internode #14 was my TF2 haunt, and it was always fun to have friends popping in and out.

Some of my favourite moments in Star Wars Galaxies were waiting for shuttles and just chatting with whoever was around.

That spontaneity with strangers is gone, but also the places you go regulalrly to just "be there" and enjoy others company seem to be gone too. Even going to a pub you find people are specifically with a small friendship circle and when they aren't they are on their phones trying to avoid the pang of solitude until their friends come back.

I think the contrast is most striking when you come from really community focused areas like university or even school, to realise that those kinds of communal situations are actually quite uncommon in an ordinary life.

To borrow a gaming term, I sometimes wonder if people haven't become too preoccupied min-maxing their social metrics and as such feel they don't have time for strangers. Everyone is content with having one or two okay friends and a few dozen more acquaintances they never speak to as a substitute for community.

TL;DR strong communities are hard to foster and hard to find, perhaps thanks to isolating technologies that undermine some of the common ground, such as matchmaking and groupless/roomless social tools.


I think the key distinction is the concept of "place".

TF2 has (or had) a concept of "place" in the form of named servers. That made it possible to encounter the same stranger repeatedly over time.

In contrast, Overwatch wants you to already know and specify your friends into their social-media graph and group up before going to a random/anonymous/ephemeral location. So you seldom knowingly encounter the same stranger twice.

> FFXIV

Thinking about an MMO, a "placeless" MMO would randomly assign you to a one of a great many small instances every time you log in. Eugh.


That's what I was imagining as well. There is no spatial link to see as common ground, and because you can't count on seeing them again you can't get to know them organically over time.

I notice it with stores I go to, I am horribly predictable with food places but because of that I can form good relationships with the people working there. They know I will be in again so they can afford to care more and get to know me.

Even here, I notice familiar name tags and I get to look forward to people's responses on certain topics I can guess they will be interested in.

Those experiences are harder to find online now and especially in games.

Fun annecdote, I found my first software job through Counter Strike Source, I played the same server for months and one guy would knofe me in th same spot at least once a session. He ended up having a software company and gave me an opportunity.


With games like Destiny, "placeless" MMOs are already starting to become a thing.


Same with GTA Online.


“Places” is exactly how I think of making new friends in adulthood irl.


Meatspace, the new spatially aware social networking site. No installation required. Make friends where your feet are!


I'd like to make a complaint that Meatspace is inaccessible for n00bs and amputee character classes. Also, higher level characters seem to be stopping new players from leveling up.


Once again, Reddit has beat us to the punch:

https://www.reddit.com/r/outside/


The smallness and novelty of the internet made it more of a community. If you played TF2 in 2008, I would say the interests of each player is more homogenous and compatible compared to Overwatch in 2018.

I think this is one factor at play. The other is the shift from desktop to mobile, from community participation to content creation or consumption - almost mutually exclusive.

Finally, deprioritization of the identity (Reddit, Hacker News, many forums, even Medium to some extent) doesn't help either.


In terms of gaming, it's also the result of a shift from dedicated servers to matchmaking algorithms.

On dedicated servers, a community of 'regulars' forms through repeated interactions.

Modern matchmaking is a more disposable approach - here's a set of players that you'll be up against for 10 minutes, and then you'll never see them again.


And leads to "toxic" behavior. If you behaved poorly in a dedicated server environment you could be banned from multiple servers in one go as each clan might host multiple servers. Eventually all that would be left for those people would be a handful of lawless servers, enough threat of punishment to deter shitty behavior, not enough of an impetus to buy a new cd key and reimpose yourself on others. In practice, most people just behaved better.

It is bizarre to see riot and blizzard run around in circles trying to combat their toxicity problem... its your meat grinder matchmaking system.

As it turns out, matching people against those who are exactly their skill level isn't what you want to do.


Going down the rabbit hole a bit further, I was always a bit pissed off with the 'match at exact skill level' method.

The best thing I ever did to progress in skill in a game was to play with/against people far better than me. I don't want to learn how to beat people who are only as good as I am; I want to learn the techniques and skills to beat the people who are at the top of the game.


And lets be honest — thinking back to how a typical game in Team Fortress 2 went — sometimes just the complete and utter satisfaction of having an awesome killing streak at the expense of a bunch of n00bs (and after such a round the server would automatically rebalance the teams, so everyone gets a chance to meet their match).


I agree with this idea. The problem, I think, is that you can't choose what kind of game you get. Lots of times I want to have a reasonable chance at winning, but now and then I want to play really good people and see how they play. You can't ever choose to do this in current matchmaking schemes, and there should be a way to do that.


I agree with you for the most part about the matchmaking stuff, but one lucky thing I've found while playing Heroes of the Storm is that if you play consistently at a certain time of day that isn't common like 7am-noon EST you can start to see a number of names over and over more frequently both on your team and opposing team. Eventually you start adding people as friends who did awesome and then they invite their friends and you add them if they were good and now I've got a slew of people who are as serious and/or as skilled about the game as I am, whereas for the longest time I played solo.

It's still not the same, but it's cool when you start to see the same names over and over, it makes you feel like the world went from an endless mass to something with size boundaries and you can tell who some of the other hardcore players are. You can hate them for always being too good or playing the same character and know what to expect, and then eventually they are a friend of a friend and then a friend.

In a similar vein, now that voice chat is there by default it can be easier to get to know people and connect or be repelled. People you respected as good players turned out to be super annoying weiners on mic, while others just regular dudes or gals talking about their life. It definitely feels like it brought a new angle to things.


I’ve also felt this experience when it comes to content creation for games.

I missed the modding communities in the late 90s/early 00s that had a sense of place and community. Things tended to gravitate around their IRC channels and those of the actual game. Was great to develop relationships online with not only the modders but the people developing the games.

As an example, Epic Games were super-accessible back in the Unreal Tournament 99/2003/2004 days to chat with on IRC and not just about modding or stuff related to their products. There were also some game servers where you know certain employees made it their haunt.

But now everything is hyper-optimized so both Epic and customers waste the least amount of time talking to each other to solve a problem. It definitely feels more like you’re talking to a corporation than engaging with a community of creators now.


You mention UT99/2003/2004, did you play competitively by chance? I miss the good old days of gaming, clans, ladders, forums & IRC.

If it weren't for UT's modding & hacking community I wouldn't have got in to this industry. A lot of people I know have similar stories.


Nope I wasn’t part of the competitive scene. I was just an active participant in some of the fansite communities (BeyondUnreal, Planet Unreal) and the various mods like The Third Reich and Red Orchestra.

The only artifact of that era I still carry is still hanging around the neotokyo IRC channel after 15 years.

Like you said, the modding community helped a lot of people get in this industry. I wonder if it’s still the same now that it’s less about modding/hacking a game with a group of people and more about contributing content piecemeal (Elder Scrolls/Fallout) or working on an actual game from nearly scratch.


TF2 was my world back in early college. I ran a number of online communities, and a number of modded servers. I also think back to enemy territory wolfenstein as well. Back then you joined a server and played on a community. I really miss the derth of dedicated servers now a days.

I agree with the sentiment but the servers I played on are either gone, or drastically changed.


Join a discord channel for whatever game you're playing. You can voice chat with people and make new friends that way.

I'm in the League of Legends discord and party up with strangers all the time. If the game goes well or people are just particularly friendly we usually play a few rounds and sometimes friend requests are sent and we end up playing more often. I've met a fair amount of people this way.

I do agree though, love MMOs for community. Some of my oldest friends are from my MMO days, but those games often get grindy and take up too much time.


I never got into TF2 because I was all into TFC and found the lack of accompanying grenades in TF2 a kind of dumbing down of the game. Nades and concs were crucial to use along side your main weapon and it was no fun without them. Sadly there are only 2-3 active TFC servers left :'(


Internet's been all downhill since Westwood Chat got shutdown.


It's all relative. There are some that think the Internet has been all downhill since September of 1993 [1].

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eternal_September



Join a discord server for a relatively niche interest that you have and not only will you meet many others with similarly deep interest in a water cooler format but you will be able to work on your hobby much more effectively with a close community of like minded people. Discord is a place that still has conversations and communities, not broadcasts and celebrities.


Yes, I consider Discord to be the best place to meet people. When I start a multiplayer game, I always try to find a channel where people meet to find others to play. People usually talk about others subjects at the same time and you will speak with the same persons, so it's easier to have friendly relationships.


How would you find these communities?

This is particularly hard if you're not interested in gaming (beyond the N64 level).


Just google "yourInterest discord reddit" and someone is usually talking about it. I'm in a keto diet discord & joined a programming channel recently.

I see N64 discord servers. I don't know if they're busy, but I see 'em.


Or go with good old IRC.

In my experience on Discord you only find absolutely toxic communities, which is not very surprising, considering it's the casual equivalent of IRC.


Try joining smaller communities. Being in a server with 10-20 regulars is very different from being in one with 200, forget 2000.


What's 'toxic'?


Toxic usually means full of assholes. People will get super mad at you and swear at you and say very bad things in general if you make one little mistake or don't know something. If you are a noob, prepared to get treated like shit and told you should die violently in real life.

Much like you'd hear about a toxic environment at home or in a poisonous mine, it's a very dangerous and bad place to be.

In some games, where the only way to have fun is if everyone knows all the rules and has skill and is playing seriously, one person who falls out of that spectrum can ruin it for the other(s) and thus people start to get angry very quickly and don't hold it inside. Games like League of Legends is 5v5 and highly skilled. One poor player can result in a 20-30 minute game with a guaranteed loss and no fun along the way, so it becomes very easy for people to spit vitriol at them. You get punished for leaving as well, so you are locked in for a certain amount of time, held prisoner if you will, by someone who doesn't meet your standards and whose weaknesses you can't overcome yourself no matter how good you are. Yes, this sounds like a horrible system and an easy recipe for disaster. On the flip side, if both teams are good, it can be very rewarding.

One thing I like about Heroes of the Storm, which is very similar to League, is that they solved a number of issues that results in less toxicity. It's still there, but it's taken much longer to grow and is still at such a lower level then what I remember League being years ago. I even got an email from Blizzard saying they banned someone I reported, so that makes me feel like at least something happens when I report bad behaviour. Since the game was designed to allow for comebacks and a single player's contributions can't hurt you as hard as in League, a strong team can still have a chance with one weak player. You still have assholes though and you still have rough games.


Ok, so normal gaming experience in those kind of games. Take Dota, which wastes the time (40+ mins, compared to the 20-30) of 4 players if one is an idiot. Of course you'll get flamed for it.


Sure, but it leads to a community that gets very quickly very angry at tiny things (because of the expectation that the person will ruin their day), and as a result those who don’t want to deal with that leave the community.

Left is a group of people that react very angry very quickly, even out of the game.


I don't think that the majority of those players get angry outside the game.


Just the new thought-terminating cliché for "things I disagree with".


No, it's more an alternative term for "being an asshole", or maybe a "shit stirrer".

I've got friends who say things I disagree with, they're not assholes. They're nice people with different views. Some people say things I agree with, but at the end of the day, they're still assholes, even though we share some opinions.

Any group large enough is going to have some assholes.

If you get called toxic a lot, it's not just because people disagree with what you say, it's probably how you're saying it.

Further, maybe you're not an asshole in every group, maybe your (and I'm using the word "your" here in a general term, I'm not talking about anyone specifically) personality just doesn't jive with the rest of the group, making you the asshole when you just have a personality which doesn't fit with the group which makes you toxic.

Take for example a subreddit like /r/aww which is just idk, cute photos. Someone who comes to that community and points out flaws, or seems to need to point out problems with the posts, content of posts, etc, well maybe they're toxic to that community, since it's just one of feelgood-ness. It's not that they're a bad person, or have bad opinions, they're just not behaving in a way which seems appropriate for the group.


So there's no such thing as toxic behaviour in your mind?


How could you possibly get that impression from what was written?

The claim was the complete opposite that almost any objectionable behavior is labelled as "toxic".

It is hence about as undescriptive as "liberal" is in American politics. That term many years ago had a well-defined narrow meaning but is now far removed from that (or like "literally" often meaning "figuratively" in common use ).


I got the impression when OP immediately dismissed anything called "toxic" as a "thought-terminating cliché".


Thought so too.


The nodes on our existing social graphs are too large. I'll define a node in this case as a user's potential social graph over time. A naive social network that mitigates this is nextdoor. I say naive because the concept of a "neighborhood" on nextdoor results in a lot of bigotry and noisy neighbor effects. Kind of literally in this case.

But the idea of breaking down large nodes in favor of smaller nodes tied to the community in which a user resides is a decent idea. I speculate we'd see greater efficiency in self-regulation, too. It's not a silver bullet, of course. At least globalization tends to decrease cultural ignorance.

I'd wager global social networks are here to stay, but I think a powerful network could arise that focuses on more refined slices of the social graph.


I think size explains some of it, but I think the way we view the internet is the real issue. Upvotes and karma systems have trained us into seeing the internet as a popularity contest even when we’re posting useless nonesense.

Even on small subreddits, you’re still entering a staged debate which gets judged by its audience, and nobody wants to take an unpopular position, and if they do so by mistake they certainly won’t do it twice.

Hacker news is similar. I’m sure there is a lot of people who hold back because they don’t want downvotes or maybe even because they don’t want no votes, and you simply can’t have any meaningful conversation when everyone is self-censoring.


Forums are still a thing. Maybe not as much as they used to be, but the communities are out there. I've met several people from IGN's forum. And I've heard of many meetups in subreddits.

I agree with you though. The Internet is not "special" like it used to be when it was new. Now it's just another normal everyday thing, like the radio and TV... And full of ads.


Better than forums for real-life socializing are mailing lists..


Not really. They either tend to overflow and turn into a mess or stay very topical.


this absolutely still exists, it's just different than it used to be. go find a twitch streamer that averages 10-300 viewers and you'll find a community. join a slack/discord organization for some niche hobby and you'll find a community. start an instagram account chronicling your trips to craft breweries and you'll find a community


There are a lot of friends to be made on IM groups. I have found the best way to create a good community is to have it be invite only so you don't get random people joining and leaving constantly and the people who are there tend to stick around for a long time.


> And now, real identities are involved, so they have to be professional.

My Twitter profile is linked to my real name, but on Mastodon I'm trying to stay anonymous.

It's amazing how much more stuff I'm willing to post on Mastodon than on Twitter.


I suggest reddit, there are enough weird ones hiding here or there


I feel like the time when online connections (ie, over long distances) ended in real-life encounters was good throughout the decade of the 2000s. After that, people became too flakey due to social becoming too important (the type that click "I'm going" to an event, but only do so as a means of saying they like the idea of going to said event).


A lot of message boards are still going strong 15~20 years later though.

I’m still an active part of one after 12 years. Meeting a German friend from there tomorrow irl for the first time in 10 years.


Depends when you came, some folk are only just discovering online discourse.

I'm a member of 'a' forum, and it still fosters conversation. To me it feels similar to an old usenet 'channel'.

I'll admit it's not as zany and anonymous as it perhaps once felt. Back then we rather foolishly thought it was more ephemeral. I blush when glancing old posts. Such is - I guess.


I do feel the same. Back then i have published several blog of what i was learning, and interacting with visitor. I also met one of the friend i made online, guess what all that is past... Or May be i have become boring.


That's why I have private Tweets now and still use a pseudonym.


> I don't think relationships like that are really formed anymore.

nah they are. you have to get into really specialized discussion groups.


You got old.


"Sure, maybe it is just an age thing, and nothing has really changed. But I don't know... I feel like the Internet used to be something special, and now it feels like flipping through TV channels in your office break room."

At one time, I could get any book, journal, or work of art off the Internet for free.

Yes--it was wrong, but it was also magical. Those days are gone, unless you live in a country that allows it?

Today, I seem to go to the same monopolized websites. Websites that seem to control me? I never felt that in 2007.

Hackernews is my one of my three sites I go to.

And yes--it was so nice when celebrities didn't know how to use the internet. So--so nice.

I wonder if artists/authors/creators are better off with today's internet?

(Yes, downloading was against the law. I don't need a lecture. That period of history was exciting though.)


I miss those early days too. And I fear the internet will turn into another source of media channels where people are just consumers.


I have been saying I've "reached the end of the internet" for awhile now. I am 44 and have been working on the web since mid 90s. I remember so much cool stuff from then. Trying to get a 56k modem to work, dealing with the fact that you couldn't always get online or if you did you could get kicked off at any time. I remember streaming the Tibetan Freedom Concert with realplayer back in '98. The first mp3 i got, napster, rotten.com, the excitement of ordering from amazon, searching for cracked passwords for photoshop and dreamweaver... in general just figuring shit out. The internet was a mess back then and even though it was frustrating as hell, it was exciting.

Now it just seems like every website online is trying to steal and sell your data. I feel like I have to have a heightened sense of awareness around anything I do. The internet used to be just barely within reach and now it's just crammed down your throat all day long. Nothing seems to work and all for the wrong reasons. Nothing worked back then but that was part of the experience.... now it's just... blah.

I have fallen into a terrible habit of looking at reddit since I don't use any social media. I read crap on r/politics before bed and end up being so frustrated that I have a hard time falling asleep.

Recently I decided to check out a book from the library (House of Leaves, very interesting so far!) and have been reading before bed and not looking at my phone at all. I have been able to fall asleep much easier and I actually have crazy dreams and wake up refreshed. For the first time in years I look forward to going to bed.

Not sure what to make of all of it. Fortunately I have found lately that I'm desiring more analog activities (reading, woodworking, hiking) than I have in a long time. It is nice to be able to use the internet as more of a tool to augment my activities rather than being THE activity.


"Now it just seems like every website online is trying to steal and sell your data."

I remember the days before the Morris Worm, the days before we were all drowning in malware, before you had to worry about your bank account being hacked in to, before your personal data stood a good chance of being leaked, stolen, or held for ransom, before the corporate/government gold rush for profit, spying, and control. Spam and the occasional troll seemed to be about the worst one could encounter back then.

Maybe I'm just remembering the past through rose-colored nostalgia glasses, but it seemed back in those days the internet was a mostly positive place -- or at least not a hostile one where you had to constantly watch your back and pretend to be who you weren't lest records of your past come back to haunt you.

Overnight popularity was the best thing and the worst thing to happen the internet. Perhaps if its growth wasn't so explosive, maybe we could have had time to deal with all the crap.

Back in those days we used to laugh at how clueless the corporations and governments were about the net, about how they'd never be able to control it. Well, now they've got us all by the balls.

Who's laughing now?


As usual it depends what you focus on.

20~30 years ago privacy was no issue, you’d actually want to meet people who shared the same communities.

But online commerce for instance was for the crazy snd the average netizen would bail in front of a credit card form. In comparison we moved leaps and bounds forward.

At its core it was so primitive we had to trust each other, and this meant fun things were funnier, and serious things were harder. I think got balanced where fun things are rarer, and serious stuff became accessible.


Nice comment. I’m thinking that some technologies, if handled carelessly —— and we have been nothing if not careless —— merely recapitulate existing power structures.


Or that existing power structures figure out how to co-opt technology. Seems to take about 20 years (telegraphs, telephones, radio, television, cars, computers ... )


> Maybe I'm just remembering the past through rose-colored nostalgia glasses, but it seemed back in those days the internet was a mostly positive place -- or at least not a hostile one where you had to constantly watch your back and pretend to be who you weren't lest records of your past come back to haunt you.

It's because back then the internet came with built-in socioeconomic, gender, and racial barriers, due to the expense and location of network access.

These types of things are going to happen whenever you put billions of people on a network. The early internet was not a cake slice; it was basically just rich white dudes with graduate degrees.

We have to deal with the crap that humanity generates regardless; it's not an issue of growth. Within a generation every human alive will be on the network. Let's plan and build for that future.


Some will say that has been the coveted intention from governments all along.


It sounds like you're content being offline more, which is great. If you miss it, though … per your comment that "nothing worked back then but that was part of the experience", you might enjoy seeing if there's a local Homebrew Website Club meeting near you (https://indieweb.org/Homebrew_Website_Club). I've gone to a couple meetings of the SF one, and it's a nice, earnest, group of makers, looking to build cool stuff on the internet, independent of corporate efforts "to steal and sell your data". They have a sense of that feeling that "The internet was a mess back then and even though it was frustrating as hell, it was exciting."


thanks for the info, will definitely check it out!


> I am 44 and have been working on the web since mid 90s. I remember so much cool stuff from then.

I'm several years younger than you, but I started using in the mid-90s and everything you said rings true for me, too. Anyone who grew up after the "Oregon Trail generation" (born in late 70s/early 80s) missed out on this. The internet was frustrating back then, but it was also really interesting.


I agree with you and am of a similar age and experience. But how much of the above is because "we were young"?


I don't think much, to be honest. In fact I think the excitement of the 90's and the advent of the internet acted as sort of a fountain of youth for people that didn't want to go the corporate route. I have been an independent consultant for 20 years and have never had to buy into the corporate life because of the freedom the internet gave me coupled with my desire to learn and understand it and share that with people. Now it just feels like everyone is selling something. There used to be a genuine sense of community far and wide but now it just feels like everyone is out for themselves. Blogs are written in a very methodical way to get that sweet SEO juice. Everyone is "witty" and sarcastic, everything is cute and silly to the point that none of it is cute and silly and so contrived that it just feels gross.

I seriously sit here some days and think, "does mark zuckerberg have no real self awareness?" I mean, this guy is the poster boy for everything that is wrong with the internet today. I guess when the inevitable shift from the open internet to the corporate internet happened, this is the result. Facebook is a multinational advertising platform, why can't they just admit that? What is wrong with this guy? But the real problem is that Facebook and Google make BILLIONS of dollars doing this.

I read an answer to a question on quora awhile back in which someone asked "what's it like to be a millionaire?". The best answer was something along the lines of many people ask this question but what they really want to know is "what is it like to spend a million dollars". I feel like this type of thinking is what is wrong with the internet today. No one wants to start a real business, they just want to start a business to get VC funding. No one wants to figure out how to really write, they want to figure out how to write a blog to make $10,000 a month from affiliate marketing bullshit. Every bit of "friendly" advice I see, I think, "ok, what's the catch here, what are they selling". And you know what? the people that just come out and say, "hey, this is me, this is what i'm selling" are the people that I will gladly give my money to.

Sorry for the rant, probably doesn't make a lot of sense but none of this does anymore.


That sounds like the type of complaints that the older generation have had about the younger generation for centuries. "Kids these days aren't doing things for the right reasons anymore" is a common sentiment that has been traced back to literally ancient times.

"Our youth have an insatiable desire for wealth; they have bad manners and atrocious customs..." - Plato

I feel like it's more likely that the older generation gets jaded (as happens to all generations). Facebook, Google, and other massive multinational corporations may be modern-day ills, but they don't represent some new, soulless trend (remember trust-busting around 1900?). They're just old perspectives on a new industry.


Some of it I honestly feel a lot of it is more the deep commercialization of the Internet, frankly. A lot of modern "commercialization" has involved "clickbait" that is designed to produce some sort of emotion (often outrage at frankly incorrect information). This goes beyond the adverts -- a fair bit of Youtube entertainment feels like cheap stunts chasing clicks to me, reminding me more of the type of tactics reality TV engages in than anything else.

The Internet of the 2000s was more about blogs (eg Livejournal) and forums (like Something Awful, Fark, etc.). A lot of these were not solely advertiser-driven businesses (LJ and SA in particular relied on premium features for revenue from what I recall) and maybe that's a key difference. True, maybe some of it was because "we were young" -- I am in the same age group. But I dunno -- there was a time when I used Facebook quite a bit as well. This is no longer the case. Yet I'm still on a few obscure phpBB forums that seem quite fine to me.


Unsubscribe from r/politics and subscribe to r/writingprompts instead. You get free short stories, a good way to read a little something before bed. Just implement a limit of some sort on yourself. "I'll only read 2 stories per night" or something like that. I keep my reddit super positive: DIY, programming, fitness, wholesomememes, finance. That's the beauty of it, you can control that content.

I try to keep HN as my only news source. I still know about the big stuff but I don't get super weighed down. I donate to a charity I know is doing good and focus on what I can do to improve things. I can't fix all the madness in the world but if I focus on a narrow strip of life that I can reach I can have more positive impact than I would sitting around stressed and sad.


I have nothing interesting to add, except that I literally just stood up from reading House of Leaves in bed before sleep.


How far are you? Are you reading all of the footnotes? I am so confused about it all but I love it. It has really sparked a curiosity I haven't had in awhile.

Btw, have you heard of the book Ship of Theseus? I bought it for my wife and we haven't jumped into it yet but seems similar in that it's a big puzzle: https://www.amazon.com/Ship-Theseus-J-Abrams/dp/0316201642 (and JJ Abrams if you're a fan)


I'm not OP, but I finished House of Leaves a year back and you definitely want to read the footnotes and everything else that Danielewski (or Zampano, if you like) has put on there.

It really is a terrific book.


I am definitely reading them but some of them are just references to news stories or articles that I just skim. Not sure if I'm meant to be digging deeper with those.

the nonlinear aspect of it all is wonderful.


I think the internet is less fun now -- I can't decide if its from maturation of technology or maturation of people though. (Has anyone else felt like things became less fun as they got older?)

I felt a greater sense of community 10 years ago when I mostly used IRC and PHP BBs. The communities were smaller, and it was fun even if you disliked people. Flame wars and trolling were mostly for the audience's amusement, because even if you really disliked each other you had nowhere else to go aside from quitting entirely. Nowadays there are so many options that people don't really commit to communities anymore.

I'm glad this thread was posted. It'll be interesting to read people's thoughts.


I don't know either but I have absolutely had the same experience. Although for me the heyday of IRC was 20 years ago, and even then (in the late 90s) it felt dated and quaint. People at that time were moving on from ICQ to AIM, and IRC was the old, weird place you went to get anime DivX videos in particular.

I do think the maturation of "troll culture" has really devalued a lot of the Internet. Virtually any event or topic has groups around it dedicated to being as loud as they possibly can, and that kind of sucks some of the air out of it. Loudness is way overvalued by the Internet.

I enjoyed going into IRC chats and spamming offensive things when I was 14 (more than 20 years ago), but that phase lasted a few months, if that, for me. It seems to be almost a profession now - my idea of offensive was just repeated curse words and flooding. Trolls these days go all out.

And it's not that I can't ignore them, but it feels the broader world can't, and we have to always fight about what to do about them, and how whatever asshole on twitter said whatever super offensive thing or how somebody doxxed somebody or whatever.

Plus! Wikipedia has gotten old. When I was young I was curious about tons of things but going to the library to look them up was way too much work. Answers at the touch of a button? Links to related content? It was endlessly valuable and interesting but I've kind of exhausted most of the random topics I was interested in. I still spend a lot of time on wikipedia, and I'm still curious about new things, but the backlog isn't what it was then.

It's sort of like 80's music. For a few years in the mid-2000's I kept being shocked how a favorite 80's station would find yet another hit I had never heard but now fell in love with. But the musical content of the decade was indeed finite, and I can't remember the last time I fell in love with a new 80's song (I've moved on to KPop but that's another story).


Go to Wikipedia and press <Alt><Shift>X. Type it again. And again. And again...

If you want obscure 80's music you can find archives of old 80's comp tapes from everything to folk to punk to experimental techno (https://contortyourself-cy.bandcamp.com/album/80s-undergroun...). I think the 90s+ has way more to offer in terms of just massive amounts of raw weird shit from bands most people never knew to begin with. You can stretch out and find all the sub-genres of a particular type, like electronica (https://beat.media/obscure-genres-of-electronica-you-need-to...) death metal (https://www.listchallenges.com/the-obscure-us-death-metal-10...) 90s UK indie (http://www.nme.com/photos/50-forgotten-90s-bands-who-prove-9...) or random French bands (https://frenchcrazy.com/2014/04/popular-100-french-songs.htm...), or do what most music nerds do and visit a record swap.

My interests have mostly shifted to history, cookery, materials engineering and gardening, so it's impossible to get bored. There's too much left to learn.


What is this supposed to do? On OSX 'alt' is swallowed up as a character palette key, to it just types '˛'.


Loads a random Wikipedia page


IRC is still alive and well, and honestly since so many have forgotten about it has become a much more tight knit community, depending on which ones you frequent... people should really try it out.

Don't forget your cloaks!

The real time nature, and the kind of people that hang out there, make it very worth it. I frequently get direct access to a dev on irc... you don't get that on twitter or a bug report.


I exist in an IRC channel of about ~40 nicks comprising some bots, some inactives, and maybe 20-25 that talk fairly frequently. Most of us are oriented on computers throughout the day, so there's really always someone chatting -- there are patterns to when people chat, based on timezones, etc.

When any of us are in another person(s) city, we tend to meet up. Some of us sync and travel to certain conferences. There's been a few in-group marriages, a few deaths.

This is a group where the bulk of us have been around for close to a decade or longer. Newcomers are rare, which is good for noise reasons among all else probably.

The only thing I've had similar to this was the core group of friends I had on a MUD in the late 90s till the early 00s.


I didn't get into IRC much until about 5 years ago where one of the frameworks I was using was just starting to pick up steam. The dev and several experienced users would hang out in there and would help answer questions. Now, I look for IRC channels as a primary source of support for coding questions and I'm slightly put off when I see a community or project doesn't have an IRC channel. I don't hang out in there as much as I used to, but it's a great place to meet people and learn, even today.


I’ve actually been thinking about this recently, as I was also a heavy forum user back in the day.

Why don’t we just start a forum for the HN crowd? Not a new interpretation of the forum model or anything like that, literally any instance of vbulletin or phpbb or something comparable and “traditional”.

If people are genuinely interested in this, I would be up for spinning something up over the weekend.


Update: Spent the evening researching software options for the "old school" style forums, and it seems like Xenforo is a solid choice in terms of active development, lots of addons/themes, and not crazy expensive. So I think I'll snag a license and put it on a droplet later this week when my wife is out for the evening :)

Also think I found a good domain for it that I'll snag tonight as well.


What's wrong with Discourse? It seems to be a popular choice.

Here are some more ideas: https://github.com/Kickball/awesome-selfhosted#social-networ...

Flarum looks like a worthwhile option: http://flarum.org/


I like Discourse too. (better than all the others mentioned so far)

There's also Talkyard. It's a bit like Discourse, and has Slack chat features (maybe nice with informal chat channels?) and StackOverflow like Q&A topics. I'm developing it. Open source & beta. https://www.talkyard.io/forum/


Nothing is wrong with it, it's just a different interpretation of forums that is a departure from the "classic" bulletin boards we are discussing here.


That's one of the main issues with HN. Since there's no notification and/or messaging, few people will look back in this thread once you've actually set it up. A Show HN could at least be seen by some, but I too often miss those as well.


Definitely interested if you go ahead!


> Why don’t we just start a forum for the HN crowd?

So HN doesn't count?


To me, HN is rather anti social ( = anti forum), & prevents anything but a bunch of strangers meeting at a cafe, to discuss a piece of news for a brief moment, then leaving, to never see each other again, and being unable to message each other later.

And if you come to the cafe an hour too late, because it was night in your time zone — then it's empty already.

(Explanation: 1) At HN, if you reply to someone a bit later, s/he will never notice, because there are no reply notifications, and in his/her comments & replies list, your comment will get buried far down below other comments s/he has posted, and others' replies. And 2) if you visit a topic that is some days old, and you post a comment — no one will ever see it. Because there's no way for other people, to find the most recent comments (your comment) that have appeared since they were there the last time. Here's a way to fix that?: https://www.talkyard.io/-32/how-hacker-news-can-be-improved-... )


HN is quite different from forums because of the temporal nature of the content, the voting, and the threaded comments. Forums can foster very long running discussions, HN isn't really meant for that.

Also, there are all the components of user profiles/messaging/signatures/etc that HN completely omits (which is totally fine, but something forums are known for that HN probably will never have).


> Forums can foster very long running discussions

This. This is the element the 'modern web' has forgotten in its rush to 'new', 'realtime' and 'current' content.

Just because a conversation happened weeks (or months, or years) ago doesn't mean it's not relevant now. Google search results appear to favour 'fresh' over 'stale'; yet it doesn't say the content is any better, or more useful to me.

Hacker news has some awesome threads and knowledgeable people, but the threads and comments are buried in the archive. Add a comment to an old thread and no one reads it or responds. Which is the HN community's loss.

Blog comments were another: I had discussions that spanned multiple years, as people found it of interest and joined in. Because I wrote for engagement, not for pageviews.

Unless people regain a sense of place in time and realise that immediate doesn't trump everything else, I don't see us going back to longer-term discussions.


Just so you know, I setup a site here for this experiment: https://hackerforums.co

I'll get a Show HN going tomorrow!


No. not compared to where we were.

Usenet was like every HN, phpBB, digg, slashdot, and reddit in one. I await those days again.


Nowadays you have a much larger internet community. 20 years ago, the number of people online was maybe a few hundred million (likely lower), now it's several billion. That increases complexity, any forum that's too broad will attract so many people that you only get noise. HN works well because it's relatively unknown (esp outside of tech). Reddit only works because subreddits are individually managed (and it's a company that can dedicate resources to it).


UPDATE: Got something up and running here: https://hackerforums.co/

I've tweaked it a bunch, but I'm sure there's a lot more to do. Please take a look if you're still following this HN thread...I'll post a Show HN in the morning for this.

I also have a post with my notes from setting this thing up...suffice to say that DigitalOcean's 1 click installer requires a few more clicks...


I think it's a really good idea. At least the spirit of it is correct - HN is a unique community which really helps me crowdsource a lot of wisdom and knowledge, and I think the pseudonymity and ephemerality is a feature more than a bug, but, it would be great to have longer running discussions that aren't swiftly superseded by the next days hot posts, and to have the freedom to post things/quesetions without the fear of getting drowned out (because on HN/reddit you have to be conscious of what is likely to get enough upvotes to even be seen)


Check it out here! https://hackerforums.co/


I really wish we could get this set up, maybe even with some official ycombinator promotion. In my mind HN is the last really great group of strangers on the internet. I have learned so much from these comments sections and I've frequently read someone's post and connected with it to the point where I wish I could sit down for a cup of coffee or a beer.

Unfortunately, without community features it feels like slipping notes into a bottle and tossing them into the sea.

HN is the restaurant at the end of the internet.


I'm going to tackle setting something up tonight and tomorrow night. I don't know anyone at ycomb so can't speak towards making anything official, but at the very least we can give it a shot and see if it can gain some traction/community.

I'll post a Show HN when it's ready.


Just so you know, I setup a site here for this experiment: https://hackerforums.co

I'll get a Show HN going tomorrow!


How about creating an Usenet newsgroup for HN?


In a way, it exists: visit comp.misc where a small group of devoted usenet fans discuss HN-type things, and where a fair number of HN stories have been linked and discussed. Visit misc.news.internet.discuss for non-computer tech discussion (and some fluff), and visit sci.misc for science articles and discussion. Among those three newsgroups you have the sum total of HN and Slashdot, and a nice crowd of Usenetters.


Is there anywhere we can see this progress? I suppose I'll see this comment of mine when I look in HN (I do often) but would love to know when anything is up and running.

BTW, I'd strongly, strongly discourage vBulletin.


I'll reply to everyone here when it's online, and will post a Show HN. Hopefully it will get some traction.


Here you go! I'm sure it still needs tweaks, but it's a start: https://hackerforums.co


Great idea.

Since we're reminiscing, unless I have you mistaken for someone else, I suspect that we both may have been a part of the same community way back when. Regardless, I look forward this; sounds like it could be fun.


You're probably suspecting correctly :)


Facebook Groups offer that to a certain degree. I get a lot of value out of small facebook groups I'm a member of, but they are not the same as the old forum-style, and it's on Facebook.


Feel free to tap me to help mod if you'd like some assistance. I can give a few hours a week.

Ninja edit: wording


That could be interesting.


I’m going to try and fire something up this week. I’ll do some research on software for it, I’m fine spending money on xenforo or vbulletin but it looks like there are quite a few options out there.

I’ll announce it here when it’s ready!


Use Discourse. It's not only the most advanced from a tech perspective, but it also aims to promote strong communities.


No doubt that discourse is really nice software, and I will give it a go, but it does lack the “nostalgia” referred to by the original comment I replied to with this idea. All options are valid at this point though!


I am a huge fan of Simple Machine Forums

- https://www.simplemachines.org/


Am I the only one who is totally confused by discourse?

Maybe it's because rhe demo instance was reset way to often or something but I've never really seen a really working discourse instance. (I think both Mozilla and Canonical (has?) run one but they weren't to active either IIRC.

Anyone has examples of a working discourse community?



Thanks everyone. You've convinced me that discourse can work :-)


The subject matter may not appeal to some on HN, but here's an installation I set up at a previous employer over three years ago, that is thriving: https://discourse.biologos.org/


Heh, I've recognized that feeling too but I feel HN is still one of the most reasonable foras I know of.


I think https://purescript-users.ml is running on Discourse. It's quite young though.


I think it is important to curate it, but I applaud the idea. I would say; only allow people with over a certain karma score on HN (>1000)? That way you benefit from the quite strict moderation here.

But indeed I remember the days on vBulletin forums; all my remarks against ‘you cannot make friends over 30’ that I uttered here come from there: most my current friends and one of my best friends I met on forums. It just worked well.


Dude, I've been on reddit since 2006 and I don't even have 1000 karma. Don't exclude the lurkers! (Who are too busy programming to post.)


Maybe you are right but how to prevent it from becoming a sales/recruitement/troll/showoff fest again?


I think that's what mods are for. At least back in the day that's how it worked. Of course some mods will abuse their powers and just do stupid stuff but in the end that's part of what made it so fun. You had to iterate through dozens of forums and hope that yours had a fighting chance because the mods did their job properly.


Normal forums have categories for these things.

Maybe except trolling.


Exactly that. I would explicitly allow it, esp since most have some interest in some of the topics. Even off-topic chat can be fine if it's in an extra category. The only thing to avoid is pure spam but with some threshold to sign up (e.g. verification) that can be kept relatively low.


Now it sounds more like an elitist club. Weren’t most of forums free for all?


Yes, but there were only a few people around and they were tech savvy and often entrepreneural especially in tech forums... Now when a forum gets any sort of uptake, it is jumped on by marketers and other spammers. So elitist, I guess but it was automatically back then I guess.


Good moderation feels like a better solution than invites or elitism here. Have the forum open to anyone, but be ruthless when it comes to removing low quality content or marketing spam in any form. Maybe even set things like signature links or certain aspects of the post formatting to be only accessible to those with 5 or more posts, and have any first post with a link in sent for moderator approval.

Human moderation always wins out over technical solutions and elitism.


Not to mention the social shaming of people trying to sell things is always pretty scathing on forums. In general they tended to promote good content by liberal application of both the carrot and the stick. No one wants their product associated with a 17 page thread about how product X is sold by a bunch of annoying spammers, oh and by the way for anyone interested, turns out CEO of the company shilling this product has a kink.com account looking for a strong domme in the SF area to punish him :thinking_emoji:


most, but one of the best ("most influential on internet culture", maybe?) had a 10$ entry fee


Free for a heavily selected group of people with internet access and specialist knowledge of how to find stuff. So: elitist in a sense of resources weighted by interest.


A good thing of forums is that you get everything as is. As raw as it gets. If you don't like something or someone you just block it.

You can also have privileged threads/subforums that are read only if you don't meet some requierments.

You can even have an option to only show comments/posts for users with karma > N, if thats what you want.


I think to kick things off it will be best to allow anyone to sign up and potentially lock it down in the future if things get out of hand. Usually forums have features like limiting new thread creation to users with enough karma/comments, so that can help a bit in keeping quality up.


Drop me an email if you need help anyway. I tried many existing options and have not found any good so far.



Thanks!


I wouldn't set the karma threshold that high. If you want to avoid spammers, a threshold of 50-100 is likely enough. That excludes any cheap spamming attempts.


Second vote for discourse!


Check it out! https://hackerforums.co/


> I can't decide if its from maturation of technology or maturation of people though.

It was a place by and for enthusiasts, and now it isn't.

So not just the people or the technology maturing, the demographic fundamentally shifted. I suspect it's also become the strongest whirlpool/second-life for people trying to fill a hole inside.

People always say <thing> was better before it was popular, and I never really bought into that, but my assumption that 'gatekeeping is bad' causes cognitive dissonance in the face of how the Internet changed.

But hey, I don't envy the kids who'll have to use this place once my generation is geriatric. Like hell I'm just going to sit in a chair and stare at a wall as I go senile - I'll be here, improving the place. Kids today will reminisce about the days when the Net wasn't a way of keeping senior citizens occupied.


I often fondly look back at my initial online gaming memories, where games like Runescape and the early Halo series offered a huge online community feel. As Runescape/Halo series developed and time went on the feelings of the games changed, and people in Runescape were more focused on efficient Exp gaining or competitive playing in Halo. I have yet to experience the same kind of online communities that were present on online gaming in 2006ish


Runescape will always have a special place in my heart.

Aside from its community it was the first browser-based game with really good 3D graphics, at a time where table-based browser games were the norm. And it was even free!

For a non-native English speaker like me in hindsight Runescape helped me a lot with English vocabulary, granted a lot of it wasn't really helpful thanks to its fantasy setting, but still it helped to improve my English skills significantly.


I imagined myself on a forum like the old days, freely typing my thoughts into the void. First thing that came to mind was who owns this content? Second thing was can I get a bigger audience posting it somewhere else?

The internet's broken and it broke me with it


A big part of the change has been a mass influx of extremely low information users. In the early years of the internet people that were on it were high information tech enthusiasts. Now we've reached the point that there are more Facebook users than internet users... At least if you ask them [1]. The average level of intelligence on the internet has dropped dramatically.

And I think this is bringing out the predators in mass. Those predators run the gamut from the guy feverishly hacking away in Eastern Europe to the greying man in the 25th story in NYC wearing Armani. Exploiting these people is the latest gold rush. That exploitation could be for financial ends, political ones, or just simply for the lulz. It all makes a lot of the internet very fake. Any community that gains any size starts to experience massive levels of astro turfing and various image management teams (professional and amateur) trying to sway opinion one way or the other.

And then every site has to have voting features of some sort or another. Ostensibly it's about content prioritizing come filtering, yet go look at all of the extremely interesting things that get left to die in "new" even on here. Or the phenomena where something will get submitted 9 times, be ignored, and the 10th time explode. It has very little to do with content filtering. The vote systems are just a tool for growth as it creates an addictive feedback mechanism. But at the same time it also is like a dream come true for those that would like to manipulate or sway others artificially.

Finally there is outrage culture. I'm still not sure if this emerged organically or not, but it's certainly been a drain on the internet. There are lots of people trying their hardest to be offended by anything, and spin everything is the worst possible way imaginable. And since a certain sort of people just thrive on drama, this nonsense spreads like wildfire. Did you hear a coffee shop called the police on two people that refused to buy anything or leave? "OH NO THEY DIDN'T!!?!? THIS WILL BE OUR TIANANMEN!" Or something...

[1] - https://qz.com/333313/milliions-of-facebook-users-have-no-id...


> felt a greater sense of community 10 years ago when I mostly used IRC and PHP BBs.

that sense of community is present in smaller subreddits with subscribers in the low thousands


There was a joke being said frequently on online forums and messageboards about flame wars and trolls on the Internet, "the internet was serious business!", but now nobody even refers to the joke anymore, because it has actually been turned into one, or is not a fun place anymore.


I feel the same and I believe it's definitely because of age. When I was younger I had hours each day to invest into online interactions. sure it was fun, but it's over.

Kids nowadays have it the same, they just use snapshat or instafram or something entire else to create their unique online experience (that they will miss in 15 years)


maturation of people

If anything it’s the opposite. The old golden rule used to be “what goes online stays online”. Now people call the police if they are “offended”.


He's just old. Go to Tumblr, Facebook groups, Instagram. There's thousands of places to waste your time with vapid, unyielding streams of barely entertaining content. I recently spent hours going through bad geography memes. Geography. Memes.

Or you could go old-school. Fark.com is still around, as is SomethingAwful. Reddit has tons of content. And if you're not at work and looking for a horrifying thrill ride, 4chan. IRC is just kind of depressing after you've been away from it for a while... like, a decade later, these same people are still sitting on these channels every day, all day? Then again, I'm still on this waste-of-time news feed...


“Go to Tumblr, Facebook groups, Instagram... Reddit... 4chan” All of those have one thing in common to me, which is that they’re not meant for holding conversations on. Facebook pretends to be but if you post more than a couple of replies they get collapsed up. All those sites are “here’s a picture/video, make a kneejerk response, move on.” Ok sure that’s optimised for timewasting - I just want to see content, I don’t want to have to dig through text to get it - but it’s boring, non-interactive, repetitive timewasting. I think we lost some magic when you stopped being forced to deal with individuals in chatrooms/forums/their own personal sites in order to see stuff, even though it was also really inconvenient.


4chan is nothing but conversations. They can span 7 minutes or 7 months depending on the board and the topic, but they otherwise work exactly like forums where the order is determined by post bumping. Try hanging out around a slower board like /lit/ and you'll notice they are essentially forums.


"but if you post more than a couple of replies they get collapsed up"

Forums do the same thing, just with pagination instead of collapsing. Newcomers to a thread or FB post aren't going to read through the last 40 pages of comments, but the option to do so is still available.


Exactly this. They just got old.

I started playing on the internet in 91, I used IRC mainly, it was exciting and fun talking with people around the world, not many people were on the internet..... to me it went down hill from there, it started being more of a tool with the various phases of new amusing things :)

other people started at various points and they would go through a similar thing, it's a great toy that slowly becomes a tool but you can still use it as a toy, but often less inclined to do so, mainly because the toy changes shape all the time and the way you originally played with it morphs into something else.


I may be wrong on this, but lately I find the Reddit hivemind has gone into overdrive. On any given sub, you're either "with us" or "against us".

It's gotten to the point that making a perfectly benign comment that couldn't possibly be seen as taking a side or disagreeing with anyone's opinion is insta-downvoted or attacked, assuming it's not parroting whatever the sub's current talking points are.

I'm not even referring to the political/news subreddits, which would be understandably partisan. Other subs that used to be about the topic at hand have started coalescing into us/them teams.


The main subs are super super stupid. Pun after pun. Maybe the parent comments are a bit thoughtful but that's it.


A 30-something is old? I feel like we have differing age categorizations.

Then again, I'm 36.

For my part, I've spent less time on things that don't matter and more time on things that do matter. So while yes, the web has lost its luster from my teens and twenties, I think my general sense of life fulfillment has broadened considerably.


I'm getting weary reading the constant lament of the "internet" as a massive entity. These articles take the same form:

- "ugh social media is terrible, remember forums"

- "aren't rss feeds great"

- "remember when sites were HTML based"

- "back in my day the internet was just me and a few cool people"

The internet is not a monolith. What people are complaining about is the corporate internet; the parts of the internet that are owned by billion dollar companies.

Here's the reality:

- there are more interesting independent blogs now than there were pre-Facebook/Twitter. Maybe less "per-capita" of total online usage, but there's still a higher volume

- every single person is capable of making an online community using cheap tech, and using corporate social media to promote it; way easier than it was in the past

- developers are still "allowed" to make sites in plain HTML/CSS that look great and load fast

Blockbuster movies are always bad, so people made indie films. Network TV sitcoms are bad, so people made online series. Pop music is bad, so people make great music and play in local bars and small venues. If you're tired of the "internet being bad", its time to put the work in to find (or make!) what you like, because it's all out there.


Independent does not work at all because random websites are no longer discoverable. In the old days of the internet discoverability was via word of mouth, portals/aggregators or old "topic rings". You had bulletin boards as well.

The original reason for e.g. Reddit to exist was to be an aggregator and recommendation service. However it started handling discussions which it is not equipped to deal with at all and then went downhill.

A similar aggregator is HN. Again, it is not equipped for discussion. Both are curated by users which further lowers signal to noise ratio and causes popularity contest plus short lifespan of valuable content.

Both are essentially RSS feeds with HTML/JS interface, comment and vote functions.

Forum software is equipped for discussion but requires manual curation to serve as an aggregator limiting volume. Likewise newer chat software.

Facebook and Twitter are inferior compared to forum software in almost all cases. They are broadcast media with major limitations that are user curated.

Facebook main reason of existence is remembering and tracking people not matchmaking or contact - it is not equipped for that well if at all - the chat handles maybe a few people at most, comments under posts are a total mess.

Nobody really cares about volume. (Unless they sell ads.) Quality is what matters and it really went down with user curated sites.

For social talk and matchmaking, you need a platform that allows discussion in the long term. Neither Facebook nor Twitter help with it as a profile or a post is not a topic.

The old chat survives alongside some bigger forims still, both IRC and newer platforms like Slack, Discord, Twitch etc. These have a problem with discoverability because they're rarely indexed.

The major differentiator is again "user curated" vs moderated; broadcast vs chat.


Nothing I've found on the internet has yet replaced the sublime excitement I felt when dialing into a local BBS in a small town in California when I was a kid.

There were maybe 4-5 people on at a time, but I still remember the total thrill of chatting with them and imagining who they might be, where in town they lived, what they looked like. Oh, and how much money I could make in Tradewars that day.

My biggest question about this feeling of a long-lost treasure has always been, am I just getting older? Is it just nostalgia for those first experiences of connection through a network? Because if I liked local BBSes so much, you'd think I'd like Facebook or Nextdoor ... but no, I strongly don't. I can't even explain why I don't like them, but it certainly has something to do with anonymity and imagination. In dial-up BBSes, MUDs, IRC, AIM, ICQ, and Livejournal, I was always anonymous. I could be whoever I wanted to be, express myself freely, make friends, and only then choose to reveal my identity — to individuals. Today, so much of the internet is predicated on establishing my identity as quickly as possible, and then profiling me -- tracking my behavior, building a chronology of my behavior, showing my timeline, revealing what I liked or disliked, compiling that data, repackaging it into a derivative, mining the derivative for value. It's so far beyond fun that it's exhausting even to describe.

The one thing I am pretty sure about is that this feeling of "I used to do X, it was so simple and fun, what happened?" can be more than just nostalgia. That is, I felt this way about something else several years ago -- tabletop role-playing games. I kept thinking, damn, the guys and I used to have so much fun playing those games: face to face, low-tech, up all night with our D&D sheets, laughing and drawing, etc. It seemed like simple nostalgia for childhood, until I got together some grown-ups and ran some D&D games. And you know what? Three years later, I’ve made some great friends, deepened existing friendships, and had a blast.

So I wonder if, for me, what’s missing in my internet is that feeling of a small community — and local, maybe? — with anonymity at its core. I’m not really sure and more thought is needed.


When Google did that 180 and went from recommending that people use anonymous user names to attempting to require that they use real world identities, that's when I knew a sea change was happening on the internet, for the worse.

Anyone who isn't using an anonymous handle on a regular basis somewhere is missing out on an essential life experience. It's one of the few channels in the world where we are all intrinsically equal - aside from text skills - and can bypass surface judgments or historical baggage to just say what we're actually thinking (or a lot closer to it). I think this is a healthy and even necessary outlet for a lot of people.


Some of the best experiences were posting under a handle on a local gaming site and combining being a sarcastic troll with decent contributions to the forum, as well as writing game reviews for the parent web site.

That online community fostered involvement in an RL community through holding LAN gaming events on a weekend, or hanging out with other forum members at a few bars around town. I think you're spot on that localisation is key. I'd go on the world wide web and end up talking trash with a bunch of dudes who lived at most 60km away.


I miss GeoCities/Tripod, and the time where search engines would always return new, quirky pages for whatever you searched for - no big media publishers or professional bloggers. Lots of fan-built pages, or just people showcasing their hobbies.

These days I find myself stuck in a loop of HN, BBC, Reddit, eventually designernews or YouTube. The latter makes me feel trapped but is still mostly valuable content, whereas reddit just feels like a massive time sink in the worst sense.


>I miss GeoCities/Tripod, and the time where search engines would always return new, quirky pages for whatever you searched for - no big media publishers or professional bloggers. Lots of fan-built pages, or just people showcasing their hobbies.

Thank Google and SEO for ruining that.

A lot of that old-school and personal content is still out there, (obviously not on Geocities) though... but the process of discovering content on the web has been ruthlessly optimized to favor content aggregators and corporate sites, and as a result, a lot of communities have either moved to those platforms or just go dark.


This. The way search engines seem to prioritise company run sites and the way everyone's turned everything into a business venture now are the biggest issues with the modern internet.


Lol yes! Now, if I search something into google, guaranteed the first few links, not the ads, ar links directed to some store for a sale, rather than information.



I've seen a few references around here lately to https://wiby.me

I've made a habit of visiting to press "surprise me...", which delivers delightfully retro gems like, just now, the RollerCoaster Tycoon Technical Information Depot: http://tid.rctspace.com

It's a small breath of fresh air from the rest of the web that merges into a unsatisfying blur of over-produced, monitored, and hyper-optimised-for-engagement "content".


Has no one, the author or the comments, thought to ask their teenage kids how to waste time on the internet? My younger brother seems to be able to do so all day. I'm also stuck in the reddit/facebook/youtube loop but I have no idea how to do snapchat/instagram, what youtube celebs are popular, or other things I'm not even aware of. I remember learning about vine.co after it closed and apparently that was a huge thing.


> snapchat/instagram

Well first you look hot (or at least think you do), then you take cute/hot/slutty pictures of you.


This entire thread makes me realize that what people are missing isn't the internet but their own childhood.


Agreed; I guess many of us will have a blind spot when it comes to recognizing our own minds aging, and our memories accreting into a golden history.

Seems to be a part of the human condition.

Time's arrow moves in one direction, the past cannot be reclaimed. The challenge is to not become bitter about it.



Not just childhood, but I miss having that first-time experience for some of my (later) favourite activities.

Guess I have to try new things ... but what?


Get outside!


Then what?


I thought so, too. There are still enough communities hosted on phpBB, there are still enough ways to tinker around, join IRC, find ridiculous geocities-like websites or whatever. It's more that people choose to use FB, YouTube, Reddit, Instagram.


There's communities even in those places. You just have to go looking for them and be a naive kid, like all these people posting in this thread were 10-20+ years ago :p


Yes, I've succumb lately to reminiscing on the halcyon days of the early web too. I happened to be a teen then, so the memories are fondly intertwined.

I recently learned the term reminiscence bump that it looks like some folks are also enjoying: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reminiscence_bump


Looking back over the last twenty years (yes I'm old, like a lot of the you in this thread), user growth has been responsible for both the Internet's success and its demise.

I like to to separate content from community, because they have different end results. There's so much music, video, comics, games, ebooks, etc being generated now that we are spoilt for choice. That's great for consumers and not so much for creators, but that's another very large topic for a different conversation. Let's just say that there's so much great stuff out there, and the barriers to getting it are very low.

But that low barrier to entry is also what I think has made communities less fun for me. Not for everyone, but definitely for people who are a little bit outcast, or who like to challenge the status quo. Kinda like the people who are drawn to HN. Because online communities are so easy for anyone to enter, conversations tend to congeal into "popular" points of view. Even when those points of view are extremes epitomized by types like SJWs or alt-right, they're still large collections of groupthink. And I find those conversations boring. This has been well documented as the Eternal September phenomenon and it has been happening long before I got onto the net in 1995.

The best fun I had in an online community in recent times was the forums and then the slack channel that came out of the Starfighter CTP games from 'patio11 'tptacek & 'elptacek. It was announced here on HN, so the initial exposure (in the scheme of the world) was low, and because everyone involved had to have a common interest of hacking market order books and/or AVR emulators, it turned out that I had quite a bit in common with the average participant. Moreso that standard comment threads here, where it's very likely I'll be arguing with some HN rando who is just looking to score karma so they can shill their upcoming React e-book.

Good communities are still out there; what makes them good is that they are hard to get into. We shouldn't give up on the Internet and consider it "done". We should be casting wider nets to connect with people that we find interesting.


I too have experienced cyber-ennui, mindlessly half entering website addresses into my navbar. Cn-enter. Ha-enter. Fa-enter. Eng-enter. What am I even reading, I don't really care about the latest drone or how to optimize my website using Lambda and API gateway, and yet, despite keeping my IDE open so "there is no excuse", I just can't help but succumb to the mindless ether...

I've thought about this a bit and I feel like anything worth doing requires hours of my concentration, which I don't usually have. Bite sized chunks of knowledge 'productivity' feels like an accomplishment, or, at least serves as a facsimile. The internet is, in some ways, like an artificial sweetener -- it tastes sweet but never actually satisfies you.


This is exactly how I've felt for the past few years. Besides Facebook, I think a large part of it is not being quite as young and open to new things.

E.g. I'm under 30 but I never got into Youtube, I don't even know how to find good content on it.


There is an astonishing amount of good content on youtube. In the last 3 or so years it has blossomed into something of a renaissance and begun to grow into what I always kind of hoped "citizen content" could be. To my mind it is the most obviously beneficial of all of those "web 2.0" companies.

Do you like jet engines? Prepare to lose the rest of your day watching AgentJayZ talking about his job repairing jet engines in such detail I'm surprised his channel isn't a national security violation. Like teardowns of tools and sardonic commentary? AvE. Electrical engineering discussions? EEVBlog. Planes landing? Cargospotter. Interesting shit? Wendover/half as interesting. Analysis of famous Roman battles? Historia Civilis. 2 hour long videos of japanese train rides from the cabin? ato5kgyasetaito. I could go on.. and on.. and on.

I suppose I am letting my tastes show a little here but to me the issue isn't finding the content, it's knowing when to stop!


Love seeing another agentjayz fan here!

Want to spend hours watching somebody repair marine props and shafts on machine tools? Keith Fenner does excellent, detailed repairs.

Regular car reviews makes incredible car reviews of mostly normal cars (this detailed review of the PT cruiser is amazing. Watch the WHOLE thing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hoxqtnI4I4c)

Ben Krasnow (on applied science) is an intellectual and engineering treasure. Watch anything he makes.

Youtube has for sure become one of my favorite websites. There is SO much good content there.


> Love seeing another agentjayz fan here!

Honestly his stuff just comes first to mind as "outstanding, fascinating videos I would never have seen without this platform." Say what you want about Youtube but they sure have enabled an amazing flourishing of creativity and sharing.

Will check out your others! RcR though... there really should be a warning. That is some advanced cynicism. Don't get me wrong, I love them. But your link is, how should I say, "the deep end"


If you have 2 minutes to spare it will not be better used than by watching this:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RIz3klPET3o

And if you can't find time in your life for 2 minutes of art.. I don't wanna be ya


Ya, YT is a bottomless well of helpful info. (Just try stumping it with some obscure musical artist or band from whenever. Good luck.)

YT's great especially for doing things. A relative of mine with -some- car repair experience (mostly engine) just acquired the parts and rebuilt the car's entire front end, learning how from YT sharers.

(I used to be into electronics ... pre-surface-mount ... and from what I can tell it's the same way.)


I've never gotten into YouTube either, so thanks for all the names.

One thing old, more-closed communities did well was curation. I needed your curation to propel me into YouTube because I've been before and there's so much crap (and by crap I mean the slick stuff designed for viewing, to make $$$)


Youtube has an incredible amount of high-quality content hidden in tons of garbage. Unfortunately, I find the recommendation system to be inefficient. It's good at suggesting videos very closely related to what I watched before but it's not able to suggest new things that could be of interest.


I'm above 30 and oh man, I am wasting my life on Reddit/Youtube.

It depends what you're into. Are you into music? Youtube has all the music (you type "youtube<TAB>daft punk<ENTER>" and you're there... and you can put it on repeat using $TRICK if you desire). Are you into music-playing or fitness or anything? There are thousands of guitar/piano instruction videos, and countless fitness videos (on how to have correct form when you're lifting), and after you watch a couple you sort of... just keep watching. There are a number of "fitness personalities" and at some point it becomes something of a series show, that you want to watch each new video that they put up every other day.

It's really bad. I want it to stop, but I have poor self-control. Following r/politics, following the Trump trainwreck will add zero positive value to my life, I'm aware that following news in this day and age is a pure waste of time: but I can't take my eyes off of this trainwreck, I wish I could stop because it's affecting my work and career.


> but I can't take my eyes off of this trainwreck

I wonder whether this has been his intention all along.


It's like a maelstrom, don't swim too close!


An attempt to summarize everything I'm reading in these comments:

The Internet used to be an escape from the real world. Now the Internet is the real world.


I feel like this problem wouldn't be limited to a person's use of the internet but would be an indicator of a person's lack of curiosity in general. The internet, at its most fundamental level, is just information. Saying you don't know how to "waste time" on the internet is like saying nothing interests you anymore.


The medium is the message. The internet changed drastically after the rise of social networks and Google. It took a while for Google to get going though and fittingly, the founding year of Facebook, 2004, was the turning point.

The new internet has been carefully and intentionally designed to capture user attention and direct it into profit streams. Virtually all of the interactive online spaces on the web aren't trying to support community or educate minds or foster discussion, instead their sole purpose is to direct attention to those who will pay for it. The only notable exceptions to this are (1) open source software communities that ironically make the internet go and (2) the invisible private communities (various mailing lists, forums, irc) that use various technologies to hide from Facebook and Google and (3) the cryptocurrency communities (4) Wikipedia. (The last two communities are interestingly full of crazy poor people -- notably bad targets for advertisers). All the other spaces on the net have either succumbed to advertisers or been built from the ground up to serve the will of advertisers.

This is what has changed on the internet, not so much the information -- it's still mostly porn and cat pictures -- but the medium, the way that information is produced, managed and distributed. The question is to understand those design choices that allow online spaces to resist the advertising onslaught. The other question is whether people still want online spaces that do not serve the goal of advertising.


>I feel like this problem wouldn't be limited to a person's use of the internet but would be an indicator of a person's lack of curiosity in general

I don't agree with that idea. When people say "The internet isn't fun anymore", I don't think this generally is a change in the person so much as fundamental changes in how the modern internet is experienced.

By analogy, if content on the internet is like a liquid flowing into a container, then it's predictable that the liquid will ultimately match the shape of its container. If you change the shape of that container, the liquid's ultimate shape (and thus the way it is experienced) changes in a predictable manner.

When people say the internet isn't fun anymore, this isn't a comment about what's being poured, but the structure in which it's received and presented.

Say what you will about streams of "information": I believe if you switch a man's wine glass with a dog dish, only a wino would say nothing has changed.


>I don't think this generally is a change in the person so much as fundamental changes in how the modern internet is experienced.

It's not a change in the person, it's a shift in perspective due to boredom. There was a podcast about boredom from freakonomics I believe, and a lot of people (largely those 40+) simply don't view themselves as bored when all signs paint a different picture. This is what is happening to a lot of people (ITT), they are unaware of their boredom which feeds into a lack of curiosity, and so they keep doing the same routines and feel somewhat claustrophobic.

They could very much break out of that routine, could look for new places to visit, new sites to sink their fangs into, but they won't because routines are very comfortable, and heck most of the top 100 alexa sites fulfill nearly every desire.

When people say the internet isn't fun, it's not about presentation at all. Yes, Google has a lot of power in where people go, but there are so many alternative search engines and variety of leads that it really just takes one good afternoon being the excited curious cat you were as a teen.


It's also amusing to portray the internet as being some small entity. It's basically infinite at this point and it supports a million different interests, way more than it did in the 90's. Back then the whole internet population was in the millions and it was mostly geeks. Now it's in the billions and it covers everyone. So there's a ton of normies, but if you don't like what they're going, there's still at least the same amount of geeks available, probably more.

As you said, you just have to go looking for the weird and interesting places :)


Great! We're all old here it seems (I'm 42), a few of us joined back in the 90s...

It started as a great human experiment, such fun. It became co-opted by commercial enterprise. The two largest gateways into the experience are now Google and Facebook. Really, what did we expect would happen? Probably best to take it back now.


> Probably best to take it back now.

Why? The internet isn't for us, it shouldn't be a quirky clique only for the technorati, it should to be for everyone.

"Normal" using the internet for mainstream, banal and commercial content that doesn't appeal to us is more or less the culmination of the dream. The world has been liberated (at least in part) and connected.

Let's please at least take a moment to appreciate what's been gained for humanity as a whole as we mourn the loss of our own cultural relevance in the greater scheme.


> Let's please at least take a moment to appreciate what's been gained for humanity as a whole

The ability to interact faster? It’s a big wash: positive and negative.

It’s hard to see the internet as objectively good for humanity.


It's a lot more than the ability to interact faster.

Prior to the internet, the paradigms for mass communication were the telephone and paper mail. Either slow, or expensive, over long distances. Mass media was entirely centralized and corporate owned, and information meant finding physical references at a library.

Now, mass communication is nearly instantaneous and multi-paradigm (text, images, video, documents, whatever) and pretty much free, or at least no longer priced as a function of distance. My Australian in-laws Skype almost daily with my family, something which would have been, at least, prohibitively expensive before the internet, and wouldn't have involved video at all.

Mass media is dying out to web content. Instead of subscriptions to newspapers and magazines, and whatever is on television, we have literally more content than is possible to read, watch and listen to, on every conceivable topic, professional, amateur and archival. And thanks to the internet, media is no longer tied to physicality. You can watch movies without a DVD, play games without a cartridge, etc.

I would argue that the internet has been more revolutionary in terms of the way the common person accesses and harnesses information than the printing press. The mere fact that an ordinary person can publish to the web, as opposed to, say, printing out flyers or a zine or being lucky enough to write for a mass-print publication, has been transformative.

I don't really see that as a "wash." There have been some negative effects, and damage to privacy and personal liberty (as one could argue there are with any form of mass communication) but I struggle to think how the negatives would equal, much less exceed, the positives.


> It’s hard to see the internet as objectively good for humanity.

You could say the same about the automobile.


Definitely agree.

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