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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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".
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.
Literally half the people with internet connectivity do not use Facebook at all, much less exclusively.
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.
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?
That is an amazingly good point - its very easy to be lost and lonely in a crowd.
> 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
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
It's been rubbish since matchmaking came in.
So fun. I miss it too.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
I agree with the sentiment but the servers I played on are either gone, or drastically changed.
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.
This is particularly hard if you're not interested in gaming (beyond the N64 level).
I see N64 discord servers. I don't know if they're busy, but I see 'em.
In my experience on Discord you only find absolutely toxic communities, which is not very surprising, considering it's the casual equivalent of IRC.
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.
Left is a group of people that react very angry very quickly, even out of the game.
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.
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 ).
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.
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.
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.
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’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.
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.
nah they are. you have to get into really specialized discussion groups.
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.)
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.
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?
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.
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.
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 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.
"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.
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.
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.
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)
It really is a terrific book.
the nonlinear aspect of it all is wonderful.
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 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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
Also think I found a good domain for it that I'll snag tonight as well.
Here are some more ideas: https://github.com/Kickball/awesome-selfhosted#social-networ...
Flarum looks like a worthwhile option: http://flarum.org/
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/
So HN doesn't count?
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-... )
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).
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.
I'll get a Show HN going tomorrow!
Usenet was like every HN, phpBB, digg, slashdot, and reddit in one. I await those days again.
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...
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'll post a Show HN when it's ready.
BTW, I'd strongly, strongly discourage vBulletin.
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.
Ninja edit: wording
I’ll announce it here when it’s ready!
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?
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.
Maybe except trolling.
Human moderation always wins out over technical solutions and elitism.
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.
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.
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.
The internet's broken and it broke me with it
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...
 - https://qz.com/333313/milliions-of-facebook-users-have-no-id...
that sense of community is present in smaller subreddits with subscribers in the low thousands
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)
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”.
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...
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.
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.
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.
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.
- "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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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".
Well first you look hot (or at least think you do), then you take cute/hot/slutty pictures of you.
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.
Guess I have to try new things ... but what?
I recently learned the term reminiscence bump that it looks like some folks are also enjoying: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reminiscence_bump
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'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.
E.g. I'm under 30 but I never got into Youtube, I don't even know how to find good content on it.
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!
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.
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"
And if you can't find time in your life for 2 minutes of art.. I don't wanna be ya
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.)
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 $$$)
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.
I wonder whether this has been his intention all along.
The Internet used to be an escape from the real world. Now the Internet is the real world.
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 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.
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.
As you said, you just have to go looking for the weird and interesting places :)
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.
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.
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.
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.
You could say the same about the automobile.