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Why isn't the internet more fun and weird? (jarredsumner.com)
1516 points by firloop 20 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 588 comments



Lots of the internet is fun and weird.

https://pouet.net is the unofficial home of the demoscene, even though it's much weirder than the demoscene itself.

https://dwitter.net needs no comment

Stack Overflow has answers like: https://stackoverflow.com/a/1732454

Half of tumblr is totally out there.

I personally wouldn't call 4chan and its relatives fun, but they sure are weird.

There's dedicated, active, shitty phpbb forums for every single weird sexual fetish you can imagine.

And that's just the fun and weird patches of the internet that I happen to know about. There must be 3 orders of magnitude more. I'd wager that if you think the internet isn't fun and weird anymore, then you're just looking in the wrong places. The problem is with you and not the internet.


> Stack Overflow has answers like: https://stackoverflow.com/a/1732454

Nowadays heavily discouraged, and would probably be deleted as unconstructive; that one still exists because of historical significance/was grandfathered in.


To be fair it is unconstructive. If you read the question carefully, it is clear is can be solved using a regex because it is about identifying tokens, not about parsing them into a tree. Parsers typically use regexes for the tokenization stage - indeed, what else would you use?

The answers are ridiculing the OP for asking a totally reasonable question.


Regexes are indeed a perfectly fine answer when you have the guarantee no corner cases will show up in the content, and I did and still do use regexes to quickly extract data form well-known HTML/XML as a quick hack (curl|grep). Otherwise you're much better served by using a parser and select nodes with xpath/css.

The question doesn't specify if the file to match against is unique/one-shot or if it's a general case. Without that info you can largely assume it has to handle any input. The regex will get unwieldy since you have to account for corner cases like:

   <!-- <a href="foo"> -->
   <div bar='<a href="foo">'></div>


The second line is not a corner case, that is simply not legal XHTML. You cannot have an unescaped < in an attribute value. You will need to take comments (and DTD's and CData) into consideration of course, but you can do that in a regex.

In any case, how would you use xpath or CSS to identity self-closing tags? They operate on the parsed tree, not on the token level, and the question is about identifying specific tokens.


Maybe not very constructive, but I think it's a technically fair answer given the question. The person asking is not intending to match individual tokens one by one to feed into a parser, but simply to use a regular expression to extract all instances of a set of opening tags in a whole document. The trivial solution he proposes, while perfectly sufficient for some subset of documents, quickly breaks in the general case when you consider comments and CDATA sections. For that you need to maintain an understanding of the whole document.

That said, this answer frequently gets linked in discussions even where using regular expressions is an entirely valid approach.


How is it technically fair? The answer is objectively wrong - you can tokenize XHTML using regexes. You cannot use a parser, since a parser does not emit tokens but emit the element tree and abstracts away syntactic details like the difference between <x></x> and <x />.

A technically fair answer would be to point out that the regex would have to take other tokens like comments, CData etc. into consideration, so it is more like a five-line regex than a one-line regex. If someone recommended a XHTML tokenizer or other tool which could solve the OP's task, that would also be a great answer.


> How is it technically fair? The answer is objectively wrong - you can tokenize XHTML using regexes.

Yes, but that you can tokenize XHTML using regular expressions is not the same thing as being able to use a single regular expression to extract XHTML tokens. Remember that context free languages are a superset of regular expressions. I don't personally know enough about the XHTML syntax to say off the bat whether the syntax can be described with a regular expression, but generally a recursive definition of valid syntax is not possible to express with regular expressions.

> You cannot use a parser, since a parser does not emit tokens but emit the element tree and abstracts away syntactic details like the difference between <x></x> and <x />.

You can use a parser, just not any XHTML parser. The parser would need to be constructed with the objectives in mind, to parse into a data structure that doesn't abstract these details away.

That said, maybe an even simpler solution exists, such as to use several regular expressions to first remove comment and CDATA before matching. I'm not immediately aware of any other cases that would cause problems for the trivial match suggested in the question post.


I think you're missing the point - if anything the reasons you gave would be cause for it to be downvoted, because it's still an anwer, just a bad one. The reason it would be deleted as unconstructive is the creativity, which is discouraged in the push for professionalism.


But it is not downvoted. It is heavily upvoted despite being wrong and misleading. Because it is fun and snarky so lots of people upvote it regardless whether they even understand the issue or not.


>Parsers typically use regexes for the tokenization stage - indeed, what else would you use?

This is completely wrong. One can also just write their own tokenizer reading one character at a time with a state machine. It's trivial compared to the complexity of the rest of the parser.


A standard state machine with no memory (other than the current state) is equivalent in expressivity to regexes (in fact regexes with back-references are more expressive); even if the state machine is non-deterministic.


The question is not about parsing. It is about tokenizing XHTML. So you are suggesting to write a hand-rolled tokenizer instead of using regexes for tokenization? Why is that better? That is exactly the kind of task regexes excel at.


A regex is a state machine. You can code the state machine by hand, but that does not invalidate the previous statement.


Depends on how you look at it.

Regex is a family of languages each of which can have various implementations. You could have a regex implementation that instead uses mutually recursive functions etc.

What is true is that regexes are typically not turing complete and can be represented with simple state machines.


>The answers are ridiculing the OP for asking a totally reasonable question.

Isn't this fairly common for stackoverflow nowadays?


Hell yeah:

I was ridiculed for posting a query about a C++ concept I was trying to learn from one of the authoritative books on the subject - I just couldn't 'get' the syntax being explained.

I persevered and then someone chimed in that, hey, there was a typo in the book's example!


I'm not a big fan of that kind of moderation style at all


nobody is. just the moderators. it's recursive.


I'm fine with it.

It's kind of the same as here on HN. If unconstructive comments weren't discouraged here, the comments section here would look like on Reddit.

If unconstructive answers weren't discouraged on SO, I'm quite sure the more popular questions would be full of flippant half-answers trying to be funny or people posting memes to grab attention.


For a discussion group I might agree, but SO is supposed to be a repository of legitimate questions and their legitimate answers, not a place for general banter.


Totally agreed. Weird, as always, persists in small communities. Not large. Weird is still alive and kicking, but it's just as hard as ever to find, and e.g. Google prioritizes large (normal) results over small (weird) so the normal tools are unlikely to find them without effort.

In the Good Old Days, you were weird simply by being on the internet, so as an internet user you found it a bit more easily. That's unlikely to return. Improvise, adapt, be weird.


I’d love to hear some of the weird communities you’re involved with/ have stumbled upon.


I don't think that posting tiny communities into a large one is a good idea. In my experience exposure to mainstream usually ends up with the community flooded with people who eventually somehow make the original members leave for one reason or another, leading to a slow (years) but painful death of said community.


I've seen it happen here actually. Occasionally a thread will come up on Reddit of people looking for alternatives and HN inevitably gets mentioned. Then there's a flood of people posting idiotic comments and memes on the posts here.

Thankfully due to the efforts of the longer-standing community this stuff ends up languishing at the bottom of the comment threads but it seems like it's only a matter of time. It's certainly become a lot more prevalent over the course of the 5 years that I've been here.


On that note, in the early days www.stumbleupon.com was eppic! It got weird real fast..


https://hubski.com

It's sort of a social web of trust, similar to HN/Reddit but about as different from those two as HN/Reddit are from each other. The way the site works is interesting: There is no moderation or downvoting, but if you do something lame, you'll be filtered out, at which point that person won't see anything you post anymore. In practice, it works very well. The content on it seems to be an order of magnitude more intelligent and interesting than HN or Reddit, but lacking in volume and discussion because there are so few people.

I am not worried about it being flooded with noise because of the way it is set up. It lends itself well to creating isolated subcommunities, and tends to reward thoughfulness rather than lowest common denominator content. When the Reddit community was looking for alternatives several years ago, a lot of people ended up at Hubski. But Hubski never became vile like a lot of other alternatives ended up.

Posts are tagged, and you follow tags and people you are interested in. It's possible to follow only people. When they post something or vote on something, it shows up in your feed. The frontpage when not logged in is fairly boring: it's all the stories voted above a certain amount.

If you go there, be nice. Talk to people like they're real people.


I will thank you for the link, since I would not have seen this conmment: "kleinbl00 · 29 days ago · link ·

Ahhh, the busker economy. I have an opinion about this, much to the astonishment of the assembled intelligentsia.

Patreon, Indiegogo, Kickstarter, GoFundMe, the lot of them are basically ePaydayLoans. They charge an absurd amount for basically acting as a payments processor. We've developed a Kabuki whereby the supplicant does the Kickstarter Dance so that their friends and relatives are cajoled into giving you money through the sheen of legitimacy. It also allows the supplicant to disregard the nonmonetary help of any and all comers - no less than four asshole directors I've worked with have turned down my assistance as a creative in favor of begging for my money so they can "afford" to do the work themselves.

And really - who uses these services? Generally people who do not have a product viable enough to stand up on its own. I really enjoy John Dolan's commentary but no, I'm not going to pay $5 per podcast to hear him ramble. 2,681 people do, though. That makes him one of the 1%.

Kickstarter is basically a business loan that charges you 20%. That's pretty fuckin' horrible terms. But if you can't find better because your idea is shit, go for it I guess. And I say this having underwritten three Kickstarters. In all three cases, they were ideas that would have been underwritten by conventional financing if only their creators had looked a little harder. Patreon? Patreon is a tip jar for people too introverted to sit on a street corner with an open guitar case... and I say that having supported a couple Patreons.

But it's shit, and it makes the world worse, and I hate it."


Not small, but https://lesswrong.com is interesting.


Here's an example I hit recently. https://2f30.org/


Everything2 is still around.


Point well made, however I'd like to consider shedding some light on "The problem is with you and not the internet. " -

For many people "the internet" is fbook. To some the net is what google says it is.

With F and B decided that some things should not exist at all, and other things should be downranked to basically never be seen, while promoting certain sets of sites -

I think the problem is more than the individual not really looking. It's more of an education problem where people don't understand the amount of censorship and how the down ranking and upranking is actually affecting the way most are using 'the internet' - which of course has the network effects of people only sharing what they (have been allowed to) see (and allowed to share) - sadly.

The time of web rings, less spam and less censorship made it more fun finding random things imho.

Times when tumblrs and torrents and geocities and others showed up in search results, along with click at the bottom to do a similar search with alta vista, lycos, etc..

was in some ways less weird, but more fun to surf and discover. at least for me.


A day or so after this story was here - another similar article published by Violet Blue on Engadget:

https://www.engadget.com/2019/01/31/sex-censorship-killed-in...

Titled: How sex censorship killed the internet we love

I enjoyed here headings including: When was the last time the internet made you feel good? When was the last time the internet gave you hope? When was the last time you felt free on the internet? When was the last time you thought of the internet as a weird and wonderful place?

Glad to see others thinking of these issues. I worry that most people who connect online don't even realize the homogenized over pasteurized censored endless scroll publication is hiding stuff that multiple groups don't want to show - making so much basically not exist.


I think you're right. Two main reasons: the number of sites grew exponentially, and the ratio of "fun/weird" people seems higher to anyone that has been on the Internet long enough.

Why is that? Basically: because not everyone had access. So if you were there, you belonged to some sort of minority (privileged artsy, IT student, etc).

The Internet nowadays is a commonplace thing. Billions more are online. It's not surprising that the stuff you used to trip over everywhere is now not as prominent - that just reflects the ratio of like-minded individuals in the real world better.

But that doesn't mean weird/funny doesn't exist anymore. It just means that - just like in the real world - you'll need to know where to go to find it.


I think the reason is simple. Previously, the internet didn't have a real purpose, so everyone on it was mostly for the weird/fun stuff. Nowadays, as mentioned in the blog, it also has legitimate serious uses, so by definition the ratio of weird to serious is lower.

But I think expecting the internet to only be one way is not only naive but also unrealistic. You may enjoy it being that way, but not everyone does, and the internet is for everyone. There's something for anyone, you just need to find your corner of the web.


Ask HN: What are some niche communities you enjoy?

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=17690852


If you really enjoyed them you wouldn't post them on hn


I consider HN to be a niche community itself though.


But few people know about any of that stuff. There are new subcultures on Mastodon/Pleroma, tons of small self hosted projects people are now trying out .. sure .. but the average user isn't going to find any of that.

Where once we had Lycos, Hotbot, Dogpile, Excite, Yahoo, et. al., we have a fraction of the various search engines today and most people just know and use the big-G.

Reddit use to have all sorts of communities. Then they started banning everything, a CEO edited comments and didn't step down and now it's all 'safe' and single opinionated (Even /r/unpopularopinions went away).

This is a cute project and I hope it's self-hostable, because I might give it a shot. So far it doesn't seem like there's any code released.

I think the future of the Internet needs to be distributed. We need more things like Sandstorm, PeerTube, Pixelfed; thinks that make it easier for people to pay to host their own content and have control over it.


True. But another issue I feel with today's internet and apps is that it has lower rate of serendipity

Most of our experience is controlled by an all-knowing black-box algorithms. The game is to converge all experience into a small set of patterns

An Example - youtube Earlier I could spend hours on youtube and discover everything from new music to weird funny videos. Today you literally get boxed into a list comprising of your history and recommendations that have hardly 1 degree of separation from your history


Every ML recommender driven website should have a control so you can adjust Straight <> Weird. People would love cranking the weirdness up. Instant dopamine hit (unpredictable reward function) and it would bust them out of their filter bubbles.


Correct. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b3_lVSrPB6w

Getting lost in the weird side of the internet, outside your usual AI-generated recommendations is wonderful.

Human generated viralness >> machine learning recommendations.

--

A machine learning algorithm walks into a bar. The waiter asks: "What'll you have?", the algorithm responds: "What everyone else is having."


But then some kid will see goatx by chance and all the hell will break loose.


Let's be fair though, kids ran into that stuff all the time in the past and they turned out mostly fine. I don't see this as big of s problem as the people that get outraged make it sound.


The problem/fear isn't that kids run into this stuff, it's the media/lawyers blowing it out of proportion and negatively affecting the share value of Big Important Companies.


^ hah. that is a genuine problem But on a serious note, mature services like youtube/instagram can do it - they know more about me than anyone else. How hard would it to be to filter by age!


Agreed. The Internet is just as fun and weird as it always was, if not more so.

However, some of that weirdness has moved a level of abstraction "up" into mass platforms like YouTube, Reddit or Minecraft which some people might accuse of not being that under the radar.. yet the oddest subcommunities exist on such sites that few people are aware of. Amusingly, there are actually subreddits dedicated to unearthing such things on other sites, e.g. https://www.reddit.com/r/DeepIntoYouTube/ :-)


I would pitch in https://lainchan.org/ and https://arisuchan.jp/ which are nice little tech image boards. They are that lovely blend of out there and slightly off kilter that I remember from the image boards of old.


I would not merely because the denizens of those kinds of boards are in some state of obnoxious wallowing in self-pity (not clinical depression outside of the actual one or two posters who actually might have it), unless you consider that "off kilter". Reading people incessantly moan about the "good ol' days" of everything is negative content. The discussion is all fueled by that wallowing and none of it is constructive or interesting.


I would argue that smaller *chan boards are much different from larger boards you are referencing in this post. Smaller chan boards are more akin to single topic forums with a distinct community. Lainchan for instance has a large lisp and functional programming community on it, and lots of positivity. You should try clicking links before you judge them.


I am not referencing larger imageboards, I am responding specifically about lainchan as I've lurked there for some time and sometimes posted there. Lainchan is nothing more than a hyper-focused /g/ with "cyberpunk" theme. In fact, lainchan split some two years ago into two different sites that are, content-wise, exactly the same because some of its members threw a hissy fit over a new administrator for childish and inane reasons - as if its old one was any better. Maybe one out of every half-dozen posts on /lambda/ is worth reading - most others are noncommittal sound bytes, wordy demonstrations of vocabulary, or nostalgia-chasing about the "good ol' days" of imageboards like 4chan.

It is not a good community, jacoblambda.


I agree that the split was for a dumb reason (however it was inevitable with the prior issues) but that's why I listed both sites. Besides that though, communities split all the time and often for dumb reasons.

Also, on your comment that it's just a cyberpunk focused /g/, well ya that's kind of the point. It's a cyberpunk board. It's centred around a lot of the themes from its namesake. As for the value of the threads on /λ/, most of them are either fairly focused discussions of various topics in Computer Science or language discussions. There's obviously some noise in the posts but the moderation results in fairly reasonable quality levels compared to the larger chans.

As for your final comment, I respectfully disagree. It's not for everyone but that's expected.

Also in case there was a misconception, I am not threwawasy1228 and they are not me.


I see that kind of attitude even on twitter and large subreddits. I don't think its specific to imageboards, in my experience it's just a very popular attitude/outlook among those currently in their late 20s/early 30s.


That type of post is rather uncommon in my experience on these particular boards. Those types of posts are heavily self moderated and shut down by the community unless they are on /hum/ (The emotion/feels board). I'd give these small chans a chance as I find them fairly unique in the world of image boards.


I second this, these are some of my favorite places to go on the internet today. They are a bit slow in terms of posting speed but I like the slowness.


With @skrebbel, you make my day! Thanks for sharing these links. They remain me the time when I discovered the web searching for TI 85 apps.


I think the website for Yale University School of Art deserves a mention. http://art.yale.edu/


There’s a footnote giving context to the erratic design:

> This website is a wiki. All School of Art grad students, faculty, staff, and alums have the ability to change most of this site’s content (with some exceptions); and to add new content and pages.


That's brutalist webdesign, which in fact is becoming more and more popular (again). However, it's not really sutiable for the "mainstream user".


I'm amazed of its slowness. Websites like this loaded faster with a modem.


Also funny how they link to https://usability.yale.edu/web-accessibility/accessibility-y... at the bottom of the page, but the link itself is almost unreadable because it's small, orange font on top of grey. Not arguing the page itself needs better accessibility - it's art after all.



Better UX than any modern Desktop OS.


Wow this is an actual working version. Everything I tried just worked


Amazing, thanks!


Self-reply: I forgot to list one of my favourites: B-A-M, the Bananen-Aufkleber-Museum (banana sticker museum): http://www.b-a-m.de/


The author seems to have totally missed Tumblr which allows for editing of theme htmls and is easy to share which fosters and exploring creative community.

Kids these days have significantly stronger design aesthetic and coding ability so it's less haphazard; though it still has a very personal style.

see: http://soda-slosher.tumblr.com/ http://forcomfort.tumblr.com/ http://undeveloped-future.tumblr.com/


There is also tons of good stuff at https://neocities.org/browse

NeoCities is an attempt to revive the GeoCities days


I completely concur. Some of the weird stuff I have stumbled upon in my internet explorations have defied description; many of those places have evaporated into the ether since then. I think when that happens, humanity has lost a bit of itself.


I wish there was some easy way to archive everything you see on the internet.

Like a browser that records every page you see, exactly as you saw it.

Unfortunately it's probably just too difficult with Web 2.0 and its dynamically generated pages and needless flashing lights.


A useful feature of recording everything would especially be for TOS/EULA getting stuff that's hidden in scroll areas. I'd love to be able to revisit things.


It should be feasible. I've got multiple bookmarklets that do this for downloading blogs and webcomics for later offline reading (some are so heavily scripted it's impossible to just fetch them).

```saveAs(window.title+".html","<html>"+document.head.outerHTML+document.body.outerHTML+"</html>")```

Add something to the above so that it inlines referenced files in base64, and you're basically done (I tend not to bother as I'm only after the text content). For actually interactive files, it gets more complicated; you'll need to save the current JavaScript state as well as the page resources.


Demoscene is totally alive and kicking, but I don't think it has the same following as during the PC / Amiga era. Many of the old demogroups are defunct (obviously!), but not many new ones have replaced them.

There are still many jaw dropping demos and I recommend that people check them out and give some appreciation and respect to those absolutely l33t guyz


I think the OP doesn't think the Internet is fun and weird anymore because he's looking at it in relative terms, whereas you're looking at it in absolute terms (so both of you are probably right). It is true that increasingly more and more of the time one spends on the Internet is spent on a few key websites, but it is also true that the number of weird places one can check out on the Internet is much higher now than in the past. If you're looking for these weird pockets of the Internet, a good place to start is this collection: https://find.xyz/map/weird-corners-of-the-internet


If you have the right sense of humor 4chan can be the funniest place on the internet in my opinion.


Agreed - I appreciate the sheer variance in comment quality and the threads are easy to consume. To take something like /ck/ (cooking), you have a mix of some generally good advice, along with a fair amount of madness and absurdity. The mix works for me. I am glad they split off the "work-safe" boards to 4channel.


Why do you think the split was good? I think it had absolutely no effect on the site.

And the work-safe boards remain "work-safe" with a huge amount of quotation marks :)


I agree that it probably has had little effect on the site overall, and huge quotation marks as you say. I am assuming they did it for more flexibility with advertisers or something.

For me it is more psychological--there is a fair amount of decent content there, but being one click away from /b/ and /pol/ can be a detriment if I want to share a link or show something to my girlfriend. "Here's a bread recipe that sounds tasty or some /diy/ project--but don't use your work computer and you might want to fire up VPN."


As long as we’re sharing our favorite odd websites, I’d like to recommend http://superbad.com/


The feeds of the internet, Facebook, Twitter and such don't tend to be weird because of course they are selective, by upvotes, follows and friendships, and reach a normalcy between the influences. So it won't be fed to you unless you have weird friends.

So, you need to search for it. Be active about your intetests and seek them out.


I dunno, there's plenty of twitter that is just plain weird. Full of bizarre dadaist humor and all sorts of super referential jokes that require like a bibliography unless you are up to speed in the relevant sub-communities where the original jokes circulated.


That's odd, the problem didn't used to be with me.


But that stuff isn't mainstream. SO is but not answers like that.

All this fun and weird stuff lives on separate disconnected islands from a practical point of view. Maybe it really has to do with coding becoming more elite - although by all rational means it got easier. On the other hand hardly anyone would dare to upload static html websites anymore without non-trivial css/js. That's a shame.

Maybe this also has to do with the general obsession for super clean and lean code. This design has to be like that as well, same goes for the whole gist of the endeavor.

FWIW shitty forums always have been there, but there used to be a lot actually useful forums. Now those have been eaten up by streamlined and polished high quality web or native apps.


There is probably even more weird stuff than ever however search engines are not the neutral tool they used to be, there is quite a lot of censorship at the search level. But this could present a great business opportunity.


Yeah, I kinda feel this describes so much of the 'Why aren't things like they used to be?' posts... the things didn't change, you did.


> Stack Overflow has answers like: https://stackoverflow.com/a/1732454

Wow. That's one of the funniest things I've seen on the Internet. Do you have any more like this?


I remember seeing a piece of code on dwitter where someone was trying to see if they can inject any code in the page. And it was working. So yeah, I'd very much rather avoid that website. Trying to allow users to put their own code on a page someone else is seeing is perfectly ripe for exploitation. Sure, it might be fun initially, for most people, but not anymore when someone uses that power to harm your website and other users.

And I agree you could work hard to try and somehow verify their code, but I doubt it's possible to let them do something useful and at the same time prevent any possible attack.


I went to visit dtwitter and first comment seen was ‘Yeah fuck off u goddam pollack piece of trash’. That is not the fun internet I am looking for, where ‘anonymous’ 12 year old write comments of this kind. What is good in FB which I do not use is that thay required real names so you would not hide behind a nick name to write comments like the one i pasted above.


Well, if the comment section (powered by facebook) on a number of national newspapers can be a sample, having real names associated with a comment doesn't do a lot to prevent nasty comments.


TBH I don't think dwitter is about the comments.


But it doesnt look like a fun environment to post your stuff in.


+1 for pouet.


Jarred was probably young when the internet was first taking shape, and every generation shares the feeling that things were better in their youth (aka the Golden Age Fallacy).

The internet was a lot smaller and inhabited by curious nerds - to find similar fun and weirdness, just find a community today that shares those properties. Packet radio, infosec, crypto, gaming, music production, etc. - there's plenty of weird and fun to be found if you look for it.


...and sometimes, things really were better, too. Regressions happen, and the Eternal September is real.

This does not mean that there aren't wonderful things available in today's web environment, too. There is no one to blame other than the natural evolution of a system. But something was lost, and it is ok to miss it.


>Regressions happen, and the Eternal September is real.

Is that a regression, though? I mean the state pre-ES was basically that the unwashed masses weren't able to use a special service for their more-refined betters.

To me, it's essentially the difference between a country club and a public park. Certainly, the country club is better maintained and more pleasant for its members than a public park. But there's, at minimum, a strong case to be made that a park that all may use is a greater social good than a country club limited to a few.


I think the better analogy would be the origins of the coffee house.

https://ineedcoffee.com/the-coffee-house-a-history/

They rapidly became a place where people from all walks of life could, and did, come for lively discussion. And their rapid increase in popularity caused them to collapse from their own success.

Early access to the internet was, by definition, limited to people who were on academic or military networks. But by the time BBS culture came about, it was the thrill of finding like-minded folks from wherever they might be- it was not a culture based on exclusion per se, like what you would find at a country club.


I chose country club specifically because I think there has always been a strong fiction of meritocracy in IT and I was very specifically highlighting the exclusatory nature of the culture.

"All walks of life" is a polite fiction. The September in "Eternal September", after all, refers to university intake. "Wherever they might be" is a bit of a cop-out, because they weren't really "wherever", they were in other universities.

It wasn't a coffee shop, it was a strongly walled garden which only very specific groups of people could reasonably access.


Anyone with access to a modem could, and did, participate in the BBS era. I had great conversations with people from all walks of life. Not fiction.


"Anyone with a modem" is not a trivial bar. It's like saying "anyone with a CNC setup has been able to 3D print for decades".

Yes, but it was the introduction of easy-to-use 3D printers which actually, rather than theoretically, democratised it. As it was with AOL and Usenet.


Modems have been around for a very long time. By the time the mid-80's rolled around, a 300-baud cuff modem was well within the range of a young kid who had some paper-route money, because that's what I did. And my family was not wealthy at all.

[edit]- I found an article from 1987 talking about how amazingly fast (and cheap) the new 2400 baud modems were. I had to chuckle, as I still remember going from 300 (slow enough that your reading speed was baud-limited) to 1200 (wow! I can barely keep up!) 2400 and above was a speed that seemed almost decadent.

http://www.technofileonline.com/texts/2400modem88.html


The US had a mix of BBSs and online services. In the US local calls were sometimes free, which meant the BBS community was vibrant.

But the online services were really freaking pricey.

Here's a price list of online services from the 80s.

Compuserve was $11 an hour.

https://imgur.com/a/zdoZj

http://i53.tinypic.com/2janfrd.jpg

http://www.wholeearth.com/issue-electronic-edition.php?iss=1...


Oh, yeah, if local calls weren't free, BBS's would have never taken off the way they did. It was a thrill being part of a network where each BBS would make a nightly call to the furthest still-local BBS, which would then repeat the process... You could reach all the way across the country and back in a few days, for free! It felt like you were getting away with something. Exciting times.


Yes! Using things like Bluewave offline email reader was amazing.


Not all parents were OK with blocking the phone line with a modem when they have just watched a movie were a curious teenager almost started WW III by accidentally hacking into the Pentagon (speaking from experience).


I thought it was so cool to have an acoustic-coupler modem like Broderick's character in War Games. Never did find the number to connect to the WOPR, though.


In the mid-80s, only maybe 10% of U.S. households had a computer, much less a modem. You also paid by-the-minute long-distance charges for calling anyone (or any computer) outside your town.


That's why local BBSes that were part of a relay network were so popular. Communicating with folks far outside one's home range 'for free' was exciting!


I think what changed is less access to consumption, but access to making your own. When you wanted to host your own community, you need a domain and a server and some technical skills. That was a much higher bar than you need to create a Facebook community. That's ultimately what made the internet boring. Every special interest group used to have their own hand created websites that were a labor of passion. Now it's just another Facebook group or sub Reddit.


That's part of it, no doubt. I got started in the BBS era, pre-WWW, and the folks that set up their own bulletin boards were all interesting in their own right. Each board, even if it used the same base software as another, had its own distinct personality and flavor.


Access to a modem, a piece of hardware that cost hundreds of dollars, and obviously also required a machine that cost thousands. Unless you attended a university, which was also more exclusive in the early 80s than now.


Things changed very rapidly back then. By the time I was old enough to be part of BBS culture (mid-80's), a Commodore was a couple hundred dollars, and a modem not even $100. Penetration by % of population was low compared to today's ubiquity, but competent machines were readily affordable to the majority of Americans.


That’s true. It’s amazing how the Commodore 64 went from, adjusted, over $1500 to about 350 in just a couple years.


"Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded"


>But there's, at minimum, a strong case to be made that a park that all may use is a greater social good than a country club limited to a few.

Can't both sides be correct? There is certainly a host of good feelings one gets when they're a part of something that is exclusive. (Not saying it's morally right, just making an observation.) Whether those feelings are altruistic or not is besides the point. From that person's point of view, they no longer have those good feelings when their club is no longer exclusive.

From the view of the larger public, the ends justify the means as the happiness of all is larger than the loss of happiness of the few. But for those few, it's still worse.


I think folks on the more populist side of belief tend to forget that the Tragedy of the Commons is a real thing, too.


I suppose it depends on where you are, but where I'm from many populist folks don't really believe in the Tragedy of the Commons. God gave them the resources to use, we can't possibly use them all up, humans aren't powerful enough to change the earth, yadda yadda.

Global Climate Change is just one big Tragedy of the Commons.


But 'Eternal September' describes what happens to a particular platform, as something moves from niche to mainstream. There are new niche things that take their place, but people are often at a point in their lives where they aren't seeking out the new niche stuff anymore.


>There are new niche things that take their place, but people are often at a point in their lives where they aren't seeking out the new niche stuff anymore.

Speaking just for myself, here, but this has not been my experience. In my opinion, that interest in the early internet was a niche was essentially orthogonal to what it offered. It just so happened that the mindset of folks who would be attracted to the early offerings was a small portion of the overall population. But it wasn't the fact that the group was comparatively small that was what was interesting.


Right, but my point was that during that early internet period, you just happened to be in the niche group that was on it. There are new niche things out there now, but you aren't in the right group to be in that niche anymore.


Re-reading what I wrote, I see that I neglected to mention the other salient aspect- I don't find it difficult to find niche interests nowaday at all. Thanks to the internet, finding like-minded individuals for just about anything has never been easier.

But it's a different feeling than it was before, because of how things work. And some of that works against the process of forming smaller, tight-knit communities than how it used to be. And it's ok to lament loss.

Does that make more sense?


> Regressions happen, and the Eternal September is real.

Now that UUCP time has come and gone, I wonder if Usenet might have returned to its once former glory. It would be a really good place for technical conversation.


Well, it's google groups now, right?

It's a decent ready-to-go forum. I only used it for the clojure groups, but then the clj community discovered slack. All that useful topically categorized awesomeness now must be mined from worthless slack logs.


Usenet still exists independent of Google Groups. Google provides an interface for users to post on Usenet groups, at least until they decide to stop supporting it, but you don't need Google at all to get on Usenet: http://www.eternal-september.org/


A lot of online communities today are unbearable tho as everything's become so politicised. It started really wildly happening around 2013-2014 where no community was to remain a zone without some minority of users politicising it for attention. It was probably something that also happened before that but it somehow became really prevalent, at least. And often that took the fun out of it. I kind of think fondly of those times. Now of course this is just anecdotal, but that's what I've experienced in most communities I used to frequent and perhaps lots of other people here did too.

In fact, it's something I really appreciate here on HN, the tone of discussions is rather pleasant and on topic and it's very rare to see people intentionally driving it into the ground, although in contrast to something like a Facebook group it's a lot less personal.


I distinctly remember a discussion about Something Awful's slogan ("the internet makes you stupid") and how it was actually a keen observation about the internet. Pre-internet you would have people with really bad ideas. These people were so obvious to any normal person that bad thinkers generally shut up because sharing their bad ideas meant being socially ostracized or at least getting shunned.

But then you add the internet, and all these radically bad thinkers find each other and their ideas almost seem normal amongst their type. They not only normalize bad thinking, but they also push for even more radically bad thinking in an effort to out-do each other. End result, you end up with a vociferous contingent of town idiots who don't realize they are town idiots because they only listen to fellow town idiots. Add advertising companies who function on a metrics-first approach, and those town idiots dictate how companies act.


What's very interesting and frightening to me is the mental health version of this dynamic.

Someone with anorexia or another illness that destabilizes your perspective may find support in an online community. But they can also seek out and find communities that catalyze the destabilization.


The real question is: is there really that much of a difference?


/r/incels comes to mind in this regard.


Yes exactly. Prior to the internet, the "category of people whom no one wanted to have sex with" did not exist.


There are also a ton of subreddits that seem full of clinical paranoids, like the "Mandela Effect" crowd.


There is also more annoying version of this. Previously people with stupid ideas didn't get much practice in rhetorics. In live conversations you get demoralized very quickly when people don't respond in any way.

Today people with stupid ideas are the ones who get most practice in rhetorics. And practice makes you good.

As a result you find very specific kinds of stupid. If you know Nassim Talebs IYI (intellectual yet idiot) there exist supermutants of that phenomenon. For example I just argued with self proclaimed Marxist who managed to have opinions of fascists straight from 40's. He had absolutely delusional view of multitude of things like not believing in industrial revolution, or that machines could outproduce people when making bulk materials. Yet he could muster huge array of minutiae from history, usually correct and supporting whatever weird point he was making. This dude actually was rhetorically decent and very passionate about.. I don't really know what.

Such individuals are far from stupid despite their stupid ideas and they seem to be able to shut down intelligent discussion on niche boards. Specifically because nothing seems to stick: they are not trolls, not really malevolent, not really belonging to any definite camp. Just really twisted, bored and eager to engage others.


>For example I just argued with self proclaimed Marxist who managed to have opinions of fascists straight from 40's.

Is this really a bad thing? Do fascists become less objectionable with time? I'd say they still hold the same abhorrent ideas as they did in the 40s.

>not believing in industrial revolution

As a Marxist myself, that's an odd thing for a Marxist to be saying, but Marx himself does not use that term, so there could be some confusion there - we should be careful with terminology, since they can and do convey particular histories and prejudices and ideologies.

>or that machines could outproduce people when making bulk materials

That's absurd, since Marx makes exactly the opposite point in the first 3 paragraphs of Capital.

Now before you categorise me as twisted, bored and eager to engage others, I'd like to do it first - I really am bored, and at least eager to engage others. When I see a post on a topic I'm relatively familiar with (in this case Marx) I feel the need to comment on it. Now I pledged that I would do that less, but I felt a kind of draw to reply to your comment. Why, I'm not even sure. Perhaps to correct the record on a topic I feel passionately about. But I hope you don't see me as shutting down intelligent discussion, anyway.

Since getting into philosophy I've started to become skeptical of calling people stupid if I don't have any grounds to disagree with them, even if Taleb would group such people, ideas we often think are bad or false at first sight can actually be very reasonable once we peer under the ideology.


but conversely you might have the contrarian town geniuses also interacting where they would not previously. so I guess it depends on the relative size of the 2 groups and their respective probability of being ostracised in their home environment


This SMBC from 2013 illustrates the issue as well as anything. And all joking aside, I think it is 100% accurate, and a real problem that we don't yet have a solution for.

https://www.smbc-comics.com/comic/2013-04-07


Yeah, and that's best case because it assumes that these are normal populations with normal a-hole distributions, but all acting in good faith--even the a-holes, as much as they can. By that I mean that these are people with genuinely held ideas, some of whom aren't the nicest IRL, and so are just expressing their beliefs "as best they know how".

Instead, we know that there's been great effort to purposely troll and manufacture dissent for political and other purposes. It's really just coming into view as a sustained, organized, and scaled effort but, looking at the tactics on display, it's easy to believe that it's likely been going on much longer.

So, this trashing of the Internet has been deliberate and effective. Hence, the wastelands that YouTube comments, Twitter, FB, et. al. have become.

So what we've now got is weird, but certainly not fun.


There's an information asymmetry that some multiplayer games have exploited to solve this sort of problem (namely, pit all the cheaters and troublemakers against each other), but I think it's that lack of global information that lets it work.

In other forums I think it's easier to detect that you've been shadow banned, and that the reason only certain people are responding to you is that they're the only ones who can see your rants.


So true.

We need more people to be loud in the center.


There are people being loud in the center who are still incorrectly labelled as "far right" or some other meaningless label and targeted for deplatforming.

Unfortunately, politicization is inevitable when double standards exist in moderation. If you're going to have rules, they need to be applied evenly. We've seen that several of the internet giants are incredibly inconsistent in their approaches to banning content or users from the two sides of the political spectrum. Nowhere seems to be safe, including HN.


A few years ago, I never would have thought I'd be sympathising with Reagan and his "I didn't leave..." quote, particularly considering that I lean left on most political decisions. But man has it been a shock to see how quickly the progressive side of the left shifted what was considered left and right here in the US. And I am dismayed by how all political opinions across the board are now considered shibboleths for a purity test rather than subjects worth discussing.

When I was growing up, my father was a diplomat for the US Foreign Service. He was a small-d democrat. His best friend was a small-r republican. They both greatly valued each other's thoughts and opinions, and each allowed the other to sway their positions across convivial dinner-table discussion. I know such approaches are possible because I saw it on a regular basis, and I would like it if we could get back to said approach.


> He was a small-d democrat. His best friend was a small-r republican.

Uh, that's not what those mean, unless your father was a monarchist and his friend a believer in dictatorships?

"Small-p Partyname" is used to differentiate the actual word that the party's name is from the proper noun. A small-c conservative is someone who holds conservative beliefs, regardless of whether they support a Conservative party.


The common usage is to indicate that while a person has a political preference, the party per se is not the important aspect of their politics.


In my experience, the other guy has it right: "Small-d democrat" means someone who supports democracy (... enough compared to some base line in whatever context that it's worth discussing), not someone who weakly endorses the Democratic party. A small-d democrat may be an avid big-D Democrat, or a weak one, or not one at all. I'm sure a big portion of the Republican party are small-d democrats when the alternative is monarchism.

That was of a different era where politics anb religion wasn't discussed in mixed company. Now you need to yell which side you are on as virtual signage.


> There are people being loud in the center who are still incorrectly labelled as "far right" or some other meaningless label and targeted for deplatforming.

Could you give some examples?


Tim Pool (https://twitter.com/igd_news/status/871794622439313409)

Dave Rubin(https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2018/9/24/17883330/d...)

Jordan Peterson(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OCGewQc9ktA)

And so on. But are these meaningful examples? I would argue both yes and no. No, because it's difficult to argue that the people calling them out are not a minority of activists who are just pushing their own political agenda.

Yes, because even if it's a minority viewpoint, it's effective - people apathetic to the given issue are likely to take the word of the activists as gospel, which leads to deplatforming.

A very visible example of the effectiveness of this tactic is Charles Murray and The Bell Curve. Regardless of the validity of more sophisticated criticism of his work, he has been effectively denounced as a racist and deplatformed.

This also leads to a self-fulfilling prophecy where speakers presenting their ideas find themselves shunned by group X, and supported by group anti-X. As X step up silencing/deplatforming efforts, either the speaker fades into obscurity, or receives enough support from anti-X to continue their work, but now they can reliably be demonized via guilt by association(Jordan Peterson and the NBC news piece is an example).


They are not far-right or alt-right but they continually show sympathies with such ideas, and defend the same status quo that the right-wing wants to support. They are continually invited and supported by right-wing speakers. It's not as though these people are exactly centrists, and even if they were, there's a reason for a left-wing individual to critique them too.

>Charles Murray

Is a member of a right-wing think tank and the serious criticism of his work often alleges him of using scientific racism. Is it a far stretch to say that a proponent of scientific racism is himself a racist? Is it wrong to denounce people on such matters? Perhaps the critique can stretch beyond the mere empirical validity of the results and into the philosophy of what the authors are arguing. These methodological issues are in the purview of critical theory too.

>his also leads to a self-fulfilling prophecy where speakers presenting their ideas find themselves shunned by group X, and supported by group anti-X.

I'm skeptical of the idea that the only reason why such people are supported by anti-X is because they have been shunned by X.


Joe Rogan.


Bryan Lunduke.


[flagged]


Please don't post political or nationalistic flamebait.

Also, could you please stop posting rude comments?

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


Care to elaborate on that?


It's a popular, or at least persistent, european meme to dramatically underestimate the political diversity of the American public. He believes that all Americans are on the right.


As an American living in Europe, it's actually a fairly accurate one. The American greater public is generally much narrower than in Europe, in particular due to Europe's history with Communism and the various degrees of strength of the labor class compared to America.

There are a lot of "left" policies that are unthinkable and unspeakable at a national discourse level.


>None of you are in the center.

That's not accurate. And there are Americans who are very far to the left. Anybody making blanket statements starting with "all Americans" or "no Americans" is guilty of generalization.


The window of allowable discourse in the US doesn't reach as far left as the center of Canada.

Most Canadians steadfastly believe in health care for all, and they'll defend that. They might quibble a tiny bit about the edge like "Should there be any private health care at all?".

In Europe, in many cases, the farthest right parties aren't even as far right as the Democrats in the US. Standard government policies are complete heresy to discourse in the US.

Try talking about Unions in the US. Even in California, that bastion of the Left on the Leftest of coasts. At which point, you're likely going "Yeah, but who worries about Unions in this day and age?", which is exactly what I mean. The rest of the developed world does. A lot.

It's not a generalization, the window of allowable discourse does not encompass much of the spectrum in the US.


> The window of allowable discourse in the US doesn't reach as far left as the center of Canada.

> Most Canadians steadfastly believe in health care for all, and they'll defend that.

Setting up a Canada-style single payer health care system is well within the window of allowable discourse in the USA.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_National_Healt...

The Obamacare reforms brought us about 3/4 of the way to a German-style multiple-payer universal health care system, and those were widely supported as well (enough to be passed into law!). A majority of Americans consistently support at least some type of health care reform that approaches universal coverage: https://www.kff.org/health-reform/poll-finding/kff-health-tr...

> In Europe, in many cases, the farthest right parties aren't even as far right as the Democrats in the US. Standard government policies are complete heresy to discourse in the US.

The last presidential campaign included a debate between the Democratic candidates where both candidates effusively praised the policies of Denmark, which one candidate identified as “socialist”. The Prime Minister of Denmark replied, “Denmark is a market economy”. https://www.thelocal.dk/20151101/danish-pm-in-us-denmark-is-...

> It's not a generalization, the window of allowable discourse does not encompass much of the spectrum in the US.

Bullshit. Half of the country is falling over itself trying to turn the US into a replica of Europe or Canada.

If anything, it’s the opposite—only in the United States is a full, wide spectrum of allowable discourse present. Not only can you find lots of Americans who support virtually any policy commonplace in Europe, but you can find many more who hold views unthinkable or at least unsayable in Europe.


It is accurate. Reread what I've said. "It's a fairly accurate portrayal of the national discourse and the court of public opinion," to paraphrase

When was the last time you found yourself questioning capitalism in the USA? That tends to be the center in Europe, and is unthinkable by the general public and national discourse in media in the USA.

Obviously, I am not defending generalizations and recognize extremist political factions exist in the USA. I am not going to get into a semantic battle about what someone else said when the general idea is there and was just expressed poorly, and the poor semantics are used to somehow disprove the actual idea.


> When was the last time you found yourself questioning capitalism in the USA? That tends to be the center in Europe, and is unthinkable by the general public and national discourse in media in the USA.

You might have missed this since you've been living in Europe, but questioning capitalism is extremely popular in the United States ever since 2016. In fact, many European countries are far more secure in the turn-of-the-21st-century neoliberal consensus than the United States is.


Here are some ways in which the United States is either within European norms or, at times, even further to the left:

* US judicial precedent establishes a constitutional right to abortion on demand early in pregnancies, and some states, including most recently New York, extend this right to any point before childbirth. Most European countries only allow abortion in the first or sometimes the second trimester.

* The United States also recognizes a constitutional right to same-sex marriage, which is not at all recognized in Italy, Greece, Czechia, Poland, Slovakia, Romania, Bulgaria, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Switzerland, and Northern Ireland.

* US corporate taxes and regulations are within the European norm. The Heritage Foundation Economic Freedom Index (https://www.heritage.org/index/) (which defines "economic freedom" as embracing the right-wing economic policies the Heritage Foundation tends to advocate for) rank Switzerland, Ireland, the United Kingdom, and Iceland above the United States while ranking the Netherlands, Denmark, Estonia, and Luxembourg within one point of the US rating.

* In terms of civil liberties, the US is virtually unique in recognizing an absolute right against self-incrimination and an exclusionary rule of evidence, where evidence collected in contravention of anyone's civil rights is admissible in court.

* One of the biggest controversies in recent American politics is whether to overturn the constitutional standard of jus soli birthright citizenship--the notion that any human being born on American soil is unconditionally an American citizen. No European country has this policy at all, let alone enshrined in a written constitution.

* The US does not have mandatory military service. However, Austria, Denmark, Finland, Greece, Norway, and Switzerland all do.

* Unlike many European countries, the US has a virtually complete lack of media censorship by the government.

* Austria, France, Belgium, Germany, and Bulgaria have all outlawed face coverings, while Switzerland has banned the construction of minarets. France prohibits the wearing or display of "conspicuous religious symbols" in schools, a law targeted at hijab-wearing Muslims. The United States has no equivalent laws, and any such laws would almost certainly be ruled unconstitutional.


Maybe Western European, because they shifted so far to the left, even the lefties in the US are right-wing to them.


I'm Western European and most of what is considered left here it's (at least) center, if not directly right.

With the left vs right message the up vs down battle has been mostly forgotten.


Good evening M'lord.


As someone who has been interacting online since FidoNet was a thing, I have to say ... this is a problem as old as humans. There were plenty of politicized discussions back then, plenty of contentious people, plenty of trolls. In some ways the vibe was different, but really, it wasn't better. Or worse, to be honest.


The real names make it worse.


>It started really wildly happening around 2013-2014 where no community was to remain a zone without some minority of users politicising it for attention.

It was actually in September 2013 when it started ... or was it September 1993 ...? Uh, oh, how time flies, never mind.


Eternal September may have started in 1993, but it's arguable that we've been at a whole other level of badness since 2016 -- "Eternal November".



Time does indeed fly. I was born in 1993 :)


I remember it always being political. Back in 2002 most of the posts in the Command and Conquer Generals forums where various views on if Bush should invade Iraq or not. That community died the day EA banned political discussions.


The day EA killed Westwood Chat and it's active community and replaced it with their hideous in-game matchmaking was I think the day the internet stopped being fun and weird for me.

Or I maybe just lost my internet innocence, seeing Big Game come in and decide on a whim to toss in the bin the place where I spent most of my after school time. Also where I learned how to un-ban myself by editing the right registry key. :D


> In fact, it's something I really appreciate here on HN, the tone of discussions is rather pleasant and on topic

I've been a member here since 2008, 10 odd years! It has been quite consistent, and an almost daily visit for me since joining. I don't know how they do it but I am glad that they do.


>A lot of online communities today are unbearable tho as everything's become so politicised. It started really wildly happening around 2013-2014 where no community was to remain a zone without some minority of users politicising it for attention

Can you help me understand your argument by giving examples of what this means? What is "politicising" and what communities have you seened ruined by "some minority of users politicising it for attention?"


A recent example from reddit: An influential person in a small community came out as trans and preferred to live as a women now. The OP who wanted to bring this to the attention of the community and wrote:

> Given the misogynistic reputation that the community has, I think it would be good for people to go out of our way to send a message or say something about how her coming out is a positive thing.

Que the comments being about this inflammatory statement and not about what the post was meant to be about, and for good reason. People that criticised OP were met with angry replies and stuff like this:

> Lotsa male white fragility all over this thread.

2 hours later another user made a solid post highlighting nothing but her, her achievements and detailing just how influential she has been and still is for the community, the comments were nothing but praise, positivity and celebration.

IMO a pretty good example of something being politicised for no reason and directly being a detriment to the community.


On the Internet you get a Covington Catholic school incident every other day. There's lots of extreme accusations (racism, homophobia, sexism etc) thrown around with little backing evidence. I think Jonathan Haidt explains it best, where the barrier to communication has moved from "reasonable person" standards (if someone says something that could be construed as extreme/hateful you give them the benefit of the doubt but get them to clarify) to "most sensitive person in the room" standards (anything that could be offensive, even if its not intended at all, is construed as the person being some horrible monster). It leads to extreme self censorship because people are scared to talk in case they something that could be taken out of context, treated uncharitably and used to whip up a twitter mob. Coming from a moderate position it seems to me that this has had a chilling effect on debate and lead to the public square being dominated primarily by the extremes of both sides.


It seems like "politicising a community" means "people with ideas I disagree with have joined" or something similar.


> what communities have you seened ruined by "some minority of users politicising it for attention?"

Twitter (and to a lesser extent, Tumblr).


How so?


IMHO (in Twitter's case), it is very much an echo chamber where dissenting opinions are not tolerated.


Just exploring the subject here, please don't feel attacked: what would "not be tolerated" mean, and what sort of opinions could be considered "dissenting?"


>without some minority of users politicising it for attention

What does "politicising" mean, and how do you know their motives? If you mean what I think you mean, i.e. women for example standing up for their right to be included in historically male-led organizations (say, a SDR club), I must admit skepticism - perhaps what you are witnessing isn't "doing something for attention," but instead "demanding to be treated as an equal?"


> What does "politicising" mean, and how do you know their motives?

Example right here. For better or worse, some people will try to make everything about their pet issues. It doesn't really matter if their motives are good when every single discussion gets dragged into the 2010's version of Godwin's Law.


...

The OP gave no example, so I had to make a guess. In my experience, people that complain about "groups getting politicized" generally mean "a minority joined and was upset when we weren't inclusive."

Perhaps I should have simply left it at the question, but the internet is a frustrating place to have dialogues like that - clarifying every tiny point before running out of space for a counter argument.


He meant you were the example. I am not saying it was your intention, but the way you mentioned a particular issue and then added your opinion on the issue in your comment is one way people inject their beliefs into otherwise unrelated conversation. I know you needed an example to make your point, but the grandparent was trying to make a point of your comment.


This is the most obvious Golden Age Fallacy I saw in Jarred's text:

> MySpace showed the world that if you make powerful and complicated tools (like coding) accessible to anyone, people are smart enough to figure out how to use them.

My own experience with MySpace was that every page I landed on looked like a dumpster fire. I can't recall a single person who exhibited competence in using the tools MySpace gave you. Everything was always poor contrast with a cockeyed layout.


I'll have you know, good sir, that my myspace page was a glimmering magnificent work of art with perfect composition and excellent color balance.


That's their whole point - each page was individualistic, people were trying crazy things and showcasing their own personal style. The one thing that it wasn't was bland.


> My own experience with MySpace was that every page I landed on looked like a dumpster fire.

Reading this, I finally get what people mean when they say "But Snapchat is supposed to have an unintuitive UI".

I was big into editing Myspace HTML back in the day. There were simply so many possibilities. The design was an extension of your style, howrver crude and unfinished it might have been.


I think, weirdly, I have a harder time finding communities around that sort of thing now. I mostly read HN. Where would I go to find something like HN for, say, sustainable living? woodworking? cycling infrastructure? A lot of it is, if nothing else, subsumed in to a Facebook group, or a slack group, etc.

Do you have any advice on finding it?


The best I've found is small subreddits. Which is not ideal, because discovery is a giant PITA. Much like the split between /r/trees and /r/marijuanaenthusiasts (the /trees subreddit was first founded by people who were talking about weed, and people who wanted to talk about actual trees were a little nonplussed at the whole thing, thus creating /marijuanaenthusiasts and using it for tree-talk) most of the better communities are using a name that is not immediately obvious, so that they aren't oversaturated from the get-go.

It's a difficult problem to solve.


The bigger problem with reddit, in my experience, is that 95% of the comments on any given post are pure garbage filler. Joke chains as far as the eye can see.


Reddit is structually doomed to be dominated by fluff.

• Discourages long-running discussions by burying (and ultimately locking) older content

• Discourages coversation in favour of fire-and-forget comments by making it impractical to continue where you left off

• Gamification of content (not quite as bad as some sites that grant extra privileges for scores, though)

• Numerically larger groups can bury content they would prefer others not see


HN has every one of those features also.


HN is also quite bad to have long-term discussions about a topic, and suffers from the same constant rehashing of topics happening on reddit. It sort of works for news and random individual articles, where there aren't necessarily longer logical threads, but that's not what many communities need.

E.g. a typical comparison between forums and reddit: A hobby forum often has a "I just bought X" megathread or two, where people post new things they've bought and want to share their excitement about, but that don't warrant a full thread. On hobby subreddits, a large amount of the threads can be "I just bought the thing everyone always recommends and everyone has seen 20 times this week, can't wait to use it!". Similarly, what would have been a single post on an old thread in a forum needs to be it's own thread on reddit, loosing context and making search harder (even if people try to link other relevant threads). Which in turn leads to more repeat questions etc.


Hacker news is 30x worse because you don't even see replies to your comments so the fire and forget mentality is very strong. Also very discouraging to reply to older comments because once it gets over a day old its likely even the person you reply to wont see it.


Maybe of interest: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=11080539 (HN comment reply notifier)


Not the person you replied to, but thank you for posting this- it's a feature I've missed greatly.


Moderation is definitely key to dealing with that issue.

For me, as with HN, I don't like the inherent stress of commenting on submissions before they fall off the front page. The earlier one comments, the higher the chances of getting eyeballs/responses. After that short ~24 hour window, people may still read the comments, but submitting new comments seems futile.

As opposed to older "style" forums, even today, threads often stay open, allowing people to post months or years later to revive "dead" threads.


The two-hour edit window and rapid falloff on HN are two of my least-favorite aspects of discussion on this site. It is almost a daily occurence I'll come across something interesting here, get ready to type a contribution to the conversation, then realize that it's too late, and it won't be read. It is a little demoralizing.

I'm sure this approach also eases the moderation burden, and I'm pretty impressed overall with how dang handles things. So maybe it is a simple workload necessity. It does strike me that HN could be quite a bit more if these two restrictions were loosed.


Stackexchange sites are far better than subreddit if you're looking for more reasonable and constructive discussion.


If you're looking for discussion, the StackExchange sites are not where you should be looking. They're question/answer sites, not forums.


Most SO sites have too many moderators squelching any attempts at constructive, and deleting the unique as duplicate. Like Wikipedia it's become incredibly hostile to newcomers.


I do frequent a couple of subreddits but I found the quality of discussion to be fairly poor. I might've been in the wrong ones though.


The search is not great at Reddit but you can do a search and then look at which subs the "most relevant" comments appear in.


> just find a community today that shares those properties

How? I can't even search for shit anymore without being drowned in results that have nothing to do with what I searched for, but are kinda-sorta similar and get visited a lot more often.


I think it's only partially a feeling.

new ~lands have:

    - no regulations (yet)
    - lots of unknowns
    - very few hidden motives
That said, the duration of this state is probably quantifiable. Everything has these traits at first, until human stay for a while, then organization naturally takes place, taking the virginial beauty off at the same time.

I've read that some antique cultures believed in burning things to the ground. I wonder if that's not a useful thing.


I think this is closer to what I think has happened. The internet is used by such a large percentage of the population that "weird" sites now are going to be smaller in relation to sites that appeal to "the masses." The ratio of "weirdos to non-weirdos" on the internet today is significantly smaller than the mid 90s. "The masses" were very underrepresented online back then. :)


There's been a real qualitative change too. It was October 27th, 1994, and it was Wired's fault. The same year those bottom feeding lawyers decided to bombard Usenet with their green card spam. The first banner advertiser was AT&T:

http://thefirstbannerad.com/

Less room for fun, more room for tracking and click through rates.


I agree. Push advertising is toxic (and not just on the web).



The Internet was better because it was not yet another way to spoonfeed culture to a complacent populace. The Internet was for interested people, now it's for everyone. It is not better now. I mean sure the video is HD but the content is usually garbage.


Maybe the internet was just new. And then it got old. Then your mom started using it. The first album is always the best. By the fifth album the band just sucks.


Yep, absolutely agree. For the Netscape generation MySpace was annoying, for the newsgroups fun ended with IRC.

Anyone tiktok-ing around couldn't care less about MySpace and the codeblog rant.

The real fun is, that you can make the internet fun. So the codeblog's shoot was a nice PR stunt, but that's it.


A little confused by the word "just" in that sentence. How is finding a community not an almost guaranteed to fail undertaking these days?


Darkweb?


Reddit ?


Today we have things like: https://glitch.com/

That Glitch is not as popular as My Space was tells something about what people that use internet want; and shows that the internet is still fun and weird for people that like fun and weird.


Glitch sounds amazing, and way better than the tools that existed back then.

But back then, Geocities was popular and loads of people had heard of it. I have never heard of Glitch. It seems like there's become a re-division between "people who like to tinker" and "literally everyone else". On the one hand that's great but it kind of feels like everything is AOL again now.

The last vestige of fun, weird and popular is probably Tumblr, which everyone agrees has the absolute worst user interface. But you can theme your Tumblr page to your absolute heart's desire.


There is also https://neocities.org with free static web hosting and zero ads. Many features and tools.


Seems to be down.


The tinkerers were a larger proportion of web users in the 90's and hence had more visibility with their larger share of available content. Now they're drowned by the sea of services for norms to consume.


And seeking them out seems to have gotten harder. I want to see more tinkering!


Gimme some more of that sweet walled garden.


No joke, I do remember when Facebook came onto the scene, I liked it way better than MySpace. I absolutely hated how customized MySpace pages became. It was dreck. Sound would blast when you opened someone's page. You could barely read what was on the page at times. It was occasionally fun but more often than not really terrible.


Reading the article my thought was "one person's fun and weird is another person's loud and obnoxious".

These days people have to focus more on the content because the presentation is so locked down. This may be for the better, but it can definitely feel antiseptic and corporate. The sense of fun is lost.


When Myspace came along, it clearly seemed to be the cesspool of the internet; I never created a page and never visited it out of principle. There was nothing I wanted out there.

Facebook's clean design was what I actually wanted. Not some autoplay crap music.

In fact, back in the day, everything in Facebook was a search. I could click on your residence or your class/section and see everyone else in it. It was awesome and useful.


Zuckerberg is apparently red-green colour-blind which influenced FB being all blue. [1]

It also started out simple and therefore there was little to make it cluttered.

[1] https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2010/09/20/the-face-of-fa...


Samy is still your hero and you know it!


Thank god youtube got rid of that. One day you would browse a dark page, and boom! Searing white at 3AM! But it’s nostalgic.


> [this] shows that the internet is still fun and weird for people that like fun and weird

Does it, though? Google used to give search results, now it gives Google Search Results™ and most navigation is dictated by what appears in social media feeds. The behemoths are able to enforce a sense of legitimacy in their own products while marginalizing any threats to their dominance. If they really can't stop a rising star that is pulling away users by squashing or copying them then it is no issue to throw some money at the problem and buy them out.


But Glitch isn't a way for a normal person to express themselves, is it? Sure, you can write code which can be viewed by everyone, but you can do the same with github, Glitch is mostly only used by programmers, and you can't express yourself through code like you can express yourself through styling your own social media profile.


They put a really strong emphasis on lowering the barrier to entry. While you're right that it still requires you to write code, so did the MySpace weirdness of olde. I think the difference is it allowed you to only write the code, and they would handle the rest.


Normal people already express themselves on mainstream social media, about normal things. Normal people aren't the ones wishing the web was weird and quirky again, and they couldn't care less that Facebook or Twitter doesn't let them customize their CSS.


> you can't express yourself through code

...Bro, do you even code?

Honestly, I can't fathom how you could make such a statement. Granted, most people can't express themselves through code - but that doesn't mean in general you can't.


When I am feeling creative, I need a medium that allows me to keep up the momentum. Coding requires too much thought for my creative process in a visual medium (for exmaple).


Sites like Glitch assume that you already have a good grasp of tech/software engineering.

The big appeal of the early internet was that anyone could make something neat with simple HTML shenanigans, and learn to code by hacking the HTML templates to their needs. Many coders got their start by hacking Neopets storefronts. (there were actual coding puzzles on Neopets too for their events!)


I think it is much easier for a non-technical person to put up a website today than in the 90s. Today you need absolutely zero coding knowledge, not even HTML.


Back in the 90s (at least in the second half) you didn't need how to code. You just used Dreamweaver or Frontpage and you got your site! The only technical bits were to use FTP to upload it to your free hosting provider.


"Glitch is not as popular as My Space was..."

Well, we've only been at this for a little while, and we don't even have a way to follow other people or invite your friends yet. :) Rest assured, we're planning to keep going. And probably with fewer Tila Tequilas, of either the MySpace or neo-nazi variety.


Never knew that site existed!


I submit that the reason the internet is boring is that these causes are all obvious to us, and this comment won't get upvoted:

1) apps created niche proprietary software everywhere that used to be free and open media

2) the declarative, idempotent roots of the world wide web have been replaced by imperative, brittle Javascriptified spaghetti code

3) Javascript build systems have largely obfuscated any code that can be seen

4) Web 2.0 introduced private social networks in walled gardens that in many ways offer fewer privacy guarantees than before (due to the profit motive of exploiting user info)

5) Monopolies and duopolies now receive the lion's share of funding for research (which tends to aim for increasing profits and attracting eyeballs instead of fundamentally advancing the state of the art)

I'll stop there. It's hard to say how many of these are fundamental impasses to having an open internet again..


I was on the internet in the mid-90's (I was 15 in 95 which I think is the year I got on the net, I'd been on BBS's for about 5-6 years before that) and it did used to be much more weird as a percentage of sites than now (though the number of sites was tiny).

As the grownups came along and commercialised everything a lot of that went away and back then if you wanted to say something online you had to learn HTML and what FTP was as a minimum.

So things were weird because quite a few early adopters were not techies by nature.

It's different now.

It's one of the reasons I don't use facebook, instagram, snap etc, they just don't stick for me.

I do use twitter but that is because it's a nice way to follow projects and programmers I admire so it has some utility to me.

I was an early user of reddit but since the redesign (on the back of cleaning up the community) the trend towards just another social network (EDIT: speaking of which https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19039571) is pretty clear at this point, it's utility is going down as is the quality of the average posts in the subreddit's I cared about.

HN has been fairly consistent since I join over the last 5 years, a testament to the effectiveness of decent moderation.

It used to be I checked HN after reddit but that switched over the last year or two.


I have been doing internet things since the early 2000s. I learned HTML and FTP and many other technologies back then precisely to say something online. I disagree that things are less weird now.

Things are more weird. Where there was one weird place, there are now thousands. Even if only 1% of today’s sites are “weird” that’s bigger than all of the internet of 1995 combined. Rising tide lifts all ships.

Want to talk on a BBS? Head on over to SDF. They got you covered. IRC is still alive and kicking, though now with far greater capabilities. GitHub. Think about what people used to have before GitHub. I uploaded things to SourceForge back when it was one of the few choices. Oof. Think about the kind of weird shit you can find on GitHub/GitLab/etc. today.

The thing is that the apparent problem is that non-nerds are now allowed online. The horror. I have found plenty of strange, weird, niche, 1337, whatever communities now and they are made better by the fact that you don’t always have to have a magnetized needle and a steady hand to use them. All you gotta do to find them is to look just beyond Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Hell, some subreddits are microcosms onto themselves.

But this nostalgia for the “good old days” when you couldn’t have a web page in Russian and Korean at the same time is just that, nostalgia. What has actually been lost that we used to have but don’t today?


I never said anything about "good old days" give me a choice between 1995 internet and 2019 internet and I'll take 2019 in a heartbeat.

Wikipedia alone would make that choice easy.

Throw in that I can get an answer to some obscure error code in some library to talk to an old piece of hardware in <30s and I'm completely sold.

I was just describing my experience between then and now.

> The thing is that the apparent problem is that non-nerds are now allowed online.

Now you are just projecting, I never said modern internet was worse and I definitely didn't say anything about non-nerds been a problem, the internet is a larger part of my mums life (nearly house bound due to arthritis) than it is mine and that's a good thing.


It's great for tech research, but if you search for anything else, it's all spam/commercial sites.


In what domain do you find spam to be overwhelmingly present?


I can be really hard to find "hot singles in your area" nowadays.


Fitness, health, DIY, investing to name a few I see regularly.


That’s fair. My response was partially to the general theme of the thread, and your comment described quite well the 1995 state of things.

My comment about the non-nerds being the apparent problem is not that I actually think that. It’s that this sentiment often comes up. But reality is that we have way more nerds online now than before.

And overall the whole article is basically an advert for a new blogging system. Which may or may not be fun to use, but pining for the days when XSS was a desired feature.


> Things are more weird. Where there was one weird place, there are now thousands. Even if only 1% of today’s sites are “weird” that’s bigger than all of the internet of 1995 combined. Rising tide lifts all ships.

Yes, this is the counterpoint to TFA. Sure, it's a lot harder to find "weird" stuff now. Especially because it tends to get pushed down in search results. But once you find something that's "weird" in your preferred way, there are often links to lots more of it.

Also, you'll find lots more "weird" on Tor onion sites, I2P and Freenet. There are a few reasons for that, I think. One is relative lack of censorship. Also, a lot of content is more or less standalone, generated by users using simple tools, on VPS or shared hosting. And there are constraints imposed by high latency and limited bandwidth. All of that is like the old Web.

So anyway, TFA is correct, if we're talking about the Web ("internet") as a whole. But not if we're talking about the absolute amount of “weird” content.


> The thing is that the apparent problem is that non-nerds are now allowed online.

Eternal September is forever.


Also a testament to the sustainability of usefulness of having a business model that isn't directly about monetization, which means it's probably really hard to copy.

HN is a PR project for an accelerator/venture capital firm. Since its purpose is to make ycombinator look awesome and generate leads for them (providing indirect monetary value), we all get a fun place to hang out and discuss stuff so they can project that image, but I have no doubt that without that fairly unique situation it would quickly devolve into some variation of what we commonly see with social networks that have to find a way to pay for the services they provide.


The technical side of HN isn't insurmountable, the moderation side is harder but the community side is the hard part.

I could build a HN, I could maybe moderate it (though probably not as well as dang and co, they are rather more even handed than me) but getting people to come and use it without attaching it to a VC fund not so much.

If I wanted to make a profit though then things are different.

Good community projects can self fund, lichess is a good example, hundreds of thousands of users, millions of games a day and zero advertisings, scheezy tactics.

Completely funded on donations, even pays the lead developer a liveable salary (though certainly not what he'd earn on the open market working for said scheezy social networks sadly).


I actually wasn't trying to make a point that HN itself is specifically hard to copy, but the more generic idea that having a business model that's not based on monetization is hard, for some of the reasons you noted. I guess a corollary is that HN is therefore hard to copy, but it's not for any real technological issue, as you note.

I also agree it's not impossible, as you point our with lichess, it's just that with the current level of consumer awareness of privacy, I think most people (still) don't realize what they are paying for some competitors that appear free, but are really just monetized through selling personal information, and for some services network effects trump almost all others. A free chess matching service, where being linked with random people of appropriate skill level is a selling point is a lot different than a social network that's built around connecting with friends and family.

AS to being funded on donations, while I think it's wonderful that a project can be funded on donations, I wouldn't want any project I care about to be in this situation unless the donations exceed all operating/staffing costs by a very comfortable margin. There's just not enough leeway for unforeseen problems in a situation like that. Server failure? Severe illness in key personnel? Massive influx of new users that haven't matured in the user lifecycle to consider donating yet? That's such a stressful situation that I can't imagine wanting to live it for more than a few years. Unfortunately, if you can't get enough donations to get past that point (or keep increasing scope until you are at that point no matter the incoming funds), I'm not sure a solution besides monetization in some manner, and the problems and perverse incentives that come along with it. :/


> I was on the internet in the mid-90's (I was 15 in 95 which I think is the year I got on the net, I'd been on BBS's for about 5-6 years before that) and it did used to be much more weird as a percentage of sites than now (though the number of sites was tiny).

I agree with your basic observation but I have a slightly different response:

Most people aren't all that fun or weird, at least not in a way which translates to text or graphical arts or music or anything else you can transmit over the Internet. Most people are the majority, and you'll never find the majority you're currently steeped in to be especially fun or weird. (Example: A great way to make a living as a comedian is to rephrase normality to make people see it as fun and weird. Observational comedy takes a keen eye for the obvious.)


In 1995 been on the net at all made you an outlier which is why I said by percentage though perhaps that wasn't clearly put.

None of my friends had a computer at home and didn't understand anything about them beyond those things we use in school for an hour once a week I was literally the only kid in my year who programmed them as a hobby.

We were not rich or anything but my father (for his faults) was fascinated with them and so I had access years before they became a thing.

They just were not embedded into the fabric of a working class northern town in England the way that they are now.

It's strange been under 40 and remembering three distinct phases in my life, pre-computers in homes, 1 computer in a home (maybe) and now everyone is wandering around with the kind of hardware 15 year old me would have dreamed of in their pocket.

I've been on the leading edge of computer adoption since a child and I still get future shock when I walk through a bus station and literally everyone is starting at a little glass rectangle streaming video wirelessly.

The other thing that still makes me smile is that my mum has three computers in her house, all of them running a linux kernel (Kindle Fire, Chromebook and a desktop running Mint) meaning as a percentage of devices owned she out 'Linuxs' me (I have an Xbox and dual boot for gaming), in 1998 when I was faffing about with RH and getting in trouble for breaking the family PC I wouldn't have seen that coming either.


You're entirely correct that most people just aren't all that fun or weird. Over the last 20 years the internet has become an increasingly commercial and democratised place. In the earlier years the level of technical aptitude necessary to be a content producer online would have filtered out the contributions of all but the more tech-savvy amongst us, who I'd wager tend to be among the more 'fun or weird' people out there. For commercial reasons alone, it's advantageous to all parties involved from those on the infrastructure side, all the way to media companies and manufacturers of consumer goods to make the internet a more accessible place. This has contributed to the internet becoming ever more homogenised, commercial and bland to match the taste of the vast consumer public. 2019 internet is built for the same status quo that the television stations and tabloids of old were made for. Also refer to the 'Eternal September' phenomena on Usenet, that's pretty much what's happened here at a large scale.


> Most people aren't all that fun or weird, [..]

It took me way too many runs around the sun to finally get that :(.


Maybe they are now self-censoring and therefore are even less fun or weird?


During that same period, we were building up the concept of UX and one of the things drilled into people's heads was that 9 times out of 10 (at least), what you are doing is not so unique that you deserve to use a new UI metaphor to present it.

When in doubt, use the same mechanisms to accomplish things that everybody else uses.

That sort of peer pressure is intended to reduce the variability between web sites. I think for better or worse we are seeing the dividends of that effort.


Are you the "Hinkley" who created HL?

More on-topic, you're totally right. I keep a copy of "Macintosh Human Interface Guidelines" on my desk and show it to designers sometimes when they want to suggest interaction patterns that are unnecessarily novel. Very handy! haha :)


(nope, I just like the sound of it)


Wow, have you looked up the price of that book now? I don't know what it originally sold at, but today it's $248 and up. You can get the PDF for free, but if you want a hardcopy to keep on your desk, it's not cheap.


Huh for sure? I could see it on Amazon around $20-40. But yeah I got pretty lucky, cost me $5 or $10 or something along with some other Mac programming books from that era. Aww yeah :)


Interesting wording, that reddit "cleaned up the community", and that this caused a decline in the quality of content. I had this worry at the time, and was, under doubt, opposing this decision. Could you say a few words about what specifically changed after this?

I don't personally agree, as far as I know, with any of the communities that were banned, apart from the communities for buying and selling stuff, which no one should really have a problem with. And some of the communities that were banned, I vehemently disagree with, and would probably strongly oppose if they formed a political platform. The "involuntary porn" subreddits were probably breaking the law and in some cases causing great emotional distress. This latter case I think clearly crosses the line, but there were plenty that were in a gray area at worst.

There's something to having free speech readily available for criticism and scrutiny that feels very valuable. These people are around whether you want them to or not, and there's value in being able to scrutinize their views. Also, I feel there's a chilling effect when you've seen examples that saying certain things leads to explulsion.


You've pretty much covered my views.

What was illegal should already have been banned but the removal of non illegal but objectionable (to many) content stuck at the heart of what Reddit was, of course it's their platform and they can do as they please but I often enjoyed debating with people holding diametrically opposite views.

I mean I entirely get why they would do it from a business point of view but it was a stark sea change from what they'd done up to that point.

Throw in all the other odds and ends and Reddit just feels different.

The constant nagging to install their app, the hilariously bad redesign and handling of the redesign etc it just adds up.


Cool. Nice to have this discussion with you. It felt like there was remarkable consensus on reddit while these changes took place, with remarkably few people who took a more principled (in a free speech sense) stance. So I’m glad it’s not just me. I’ve been questioning whether I am in the wrong for not wanting to censor unpopular or heinous opinions.


I wonder if there is a way to combine the weird fun that was geocities/tripod/etc with the connections of a social network and modern ease of updating. Like how you use twitter, but for following webpages about butterflies or a shrine to the 6502 processor.


What you want is ActivityPub: https://activitypub.rocks/

It's the underlying protocol that connects the various federated services in the "Fediverse", (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fediverse) like Mastodon, PeerTube, NextCloud, etc. At root it's just a standardized way for nodes in a network to send messages to each other, though, so you could use it to get those "connections of a social network" you're looking for. And then Mastodon users, say, could get updates/notifications from your site/service/whatever right in their feed.


RSS - (partially) Google killed it.

My first website was about about TNG and why DS9 sucked balls.

Ironic since I now consider DS9 the better series (but TNG still has the truly stand out episodes, I think young me was just oblivious to a lot of the subtler stuff but I digress), it was shockingly bad (and I'd been programming since the 80's, HTML was just weird).

I spent about five years hating the crap out of it and never even considered web development as a career, if you'd have asked me back then I'd have said you'd claw the compiler out of my cold dead hands.

20 odd-years later and I do enterprise web dev (and C#/WPF and Java)


RSS is alive, and for dumb sites there are hacks such as https://github.com/RSS-Bridge/rss-bridge/-


I love RSS-Bridge. I have a local instance running, and it saves me from having to sign up with Twitter, Instagram, etc.

Also, tt-rss is an excellent reader.


I was interested in tt-rss until I tried it out and there was a problem with the Android app. I checked the forums for a solution...

If you do check out the forums for it you will very quickly see that the developer is a massive asshole.

I wouldn't trust any code that a person like that writes to run on my machine.


I forked tt-rss back in 2005 for my personal use after I tried to submit a few patches that didn't "align well" w/ the developer. I wouldn't go so far as to say "massive asshole", but he did seem to be a challenge to deal with. I decided it wasn't worth the effort to try to contribute back my changes.


You have a trailing - and also neat!.


I was able to enjoy TNG from the get go. It's one of the few shows where the stories have any depth. Although I did start watching it when I was in my twenties, so that could have been a factor in being able to pick up on the subtler themes


I watched TNG as it aired, that and Quantum Leap where my favourites as a kid at a time when UK TV was four channels and sci-fi was rare.


Bit of a shameless plug... but that's kind of what we're building @ find.xyz.

Here's an example of some weird shit in the dessert. https://find.xyz/map/toto-forever

Also one on the death of RSS since someone mentioned that https://find.xyz/map/what-happened-to-rss


Nice idea!

You've got a typo on https://find.xyz/about : s/beatuful/beautiful/g


Ha. Damn. Thanks :)


Stumbleupon was a good resource for this.


Websites have had comments sections since well before social networks took off. Even in the Geocities days, you had "Sign my Guestbook/View my Guestbook". Some truly old-school websites, like Mark Prindle Reviews, included email responses from people who read his work.

Trying to shoehorn social media profile integration into this system will eventually end up influencing the content, and once more it'll be a race to the bottom, with everyone posting stuff only for other people's validation. It shouldn't work that way for the 'weird web'.


Tumblr?


Tumblr gave itself up and will be irrelevant soon.


This. Weird and fun I exactly how I see Tumblr.


That, sprinkled with a bit of CP on top


youall forgot to mention beaker browser.


> and it did used to be much more weird as a percentage of sites than now

Bingo.

There are still weird sites now. But back then, that's all there were.


back then, nobody needed .onion


I think a bigger reason than any of those is that the web became a corporate advertising tool, run by bean counters and marketing people who don't like "weird" content because it may scare some people away. Just like TV, web content now targets the lowest common denominator and anything confrontational or "weird" gets put on niche sites or self hosting out of the limelight.

I think there are still a ton of "fun and weird" sites out there, they're just not on highly promoted, corporate backed platforms. And they're now a much smaller percentage of the entire web.


Actually, they're not that much scared that weird content will scare people off, they just don't like weird content exactly because it's weird and therefore unpredictable and hard to put into Excel planning charts.

Marketing people like boring and predictable.


The end result is still things like “wow, my tumblr account sure is a lot quiet now that all the people I was following because I liked their weird cartoon porn are gone”.


That was mostly FOSTA, wasn't it?


No, FOSTA hit sex workers. Tumblr just decided that lewd stuff would make it hard for Verizon to sell ads, so they banned lewd stuff and anything their shitty algorithm thought was lewd-adjacent. Now they're down something like a quarter of their former userbase, depending on whose estimates you believe; it might be higher. So that'll really help them sell those ads!


Excellent comment. I fondly remember the old advertisements and banner ads. Now-a-days most online ads are by major international corporations.


This is an amusing comment. You're trying to attribute social problems to underlying technological "problems". This is something an engineer would try to do, but I think the social problems of the internet have nothing to do with what framework a website was written in or whether or not software is proprietary.


>whether or not software is proprietary.

I think this has made a huge difference, not so much if it is open source our not but how much things have become locked down. Before if you made a cool program you could hand it out to your friends on a usb stick and run it. These days you have to pay $100 to apple and go through a long approval process before you get listed on the app store. Its the same with all the platforms people use now. They have become more and more locked down pushing the regular user in to simply consuming content and only the corporations with large dev teams are able to make anything.


How is sending your friends a URL that they can easily send to others any more difficult than handing over a USB stick? Seems far easier to me.


Now you need to buy a domain name, understand dns, understand web hosting and rent out a server because many home ISPs and routers don't support hosting servers.

Sure you can still do things but we are constantly raising the bar for creating and making consuming easier.


Not only that, but even if you could create something in the traditional way (without having to go through all those extra hoops you described), how many of the younger generation know how to run an executable locally (either downloaded, compiled from source, or received on a USB stick) when they've been raised on computer systems where everything takes place in the browser?


I came here to say the same thing. This reads like a list of technical issues that bother HN users the most. As such it's understandably a very popular comment with the HN crowd, but it has almost nothing to do with why we rarely encounter fun/weird things on the internet.


I think the de-anonymization of online users is another shift that (among many other things) caused the Internet to be less fun and weird.

You can see a very different tone in YouTube video comments, for example, before they switched to using real names.

Now, people are afraid to risk damaging their own personal reputation by posting "weird" things (I don't mean extremely weird either -- people are extremely self-conscious in general of saying things that MIGHT be considered weird in front of others, so they don't be themselves as much as they did when they were anonymous). And often, "fun" is synonymous with "weird".

It's not ALL bad -- people also say FAR less offensive things to each other when their real names are attached (but it still happens), but if you're looking for reasons for the shift, user de-anonymization is definitely one of them.


To add to this, the few remaining pockets of anonymity are still as weird as ever :)


I'm in a private forum and its funny to see how strangers with anime profile pics are able to discuss topics that would be flamed to death in seconds on most of the internet.


Ah yes, this is another great point. When people think they are being watched or monitored, activity fundamentally changes.


I don’t think it’s how we build websites per se, I think it has to do with how just a few websites have made themselves so phenomenally useful that they’ve eliminated the need for what I’ll call the “discoverabilty infrastructure” we used to have.

The first is Google. Google was such a phenomenally good search engine that you rarely needed to “surf” the web to accomplish a task. You could search “order a hand powered woodworking drill” and likely be taken to a page that let you do just that. Much of the discoverability of “fun, weird” stuff came from the “surfing” aspect of the web, Google vastly reduced that.

The second is Wikipedia (and the Wikia networks). Much of the wonderful weirdness of the early web was passionate amateurs compiling information, wrapped in their own design aesthetic (or lack thirst of.). Wikipedia as amazing and wonderful as it is, gets rid of the need to find these sites to answer a question about the world (again, reducing surfing behavior, at least outside of Wikipedia.)

The last is Facebook. So much of geo cities and the early web was the “personal website”- a Sort of combination of Facebook profile, blog, and experiment in web art. These sometimes grew into impressive little gems of content, but mostly they were terrible quips and “under construction” banners. Then came the Friendster->MySpace-> Facebook and LinkedIn transition, and the need for these personal sites dropped away. They still exist, but the interaction patterns for using fbook and LinkedIn are so much easier.

I feel like YouTube still has the early web experience to it. Much of the content remains the domain of passionate amateurs and the “up next” algorithm regularly takes me in serendipitous locations (and sometimes down some darker paths).

The fun and weird communities now seem like “islands in the net” if you will, they are there and probably larger than ever, but much harder to get to (or at least stumble upon), due to tooling that allows use to accomplish tasks without detours.


Much of the discoverability of “fun, weird” stuff came from the “surfing” aspect of the web, Google vastly reduced that.

One must not forget that Google is actively optimising search results away from the "weird stuff" and blocking users that try to dig deeper into the results to find it, insulting them with the accusation that they're a bot (a bit ironic, considering that if you behave "like the billion other mindless drones" you don't get singled out...) and presenting them with endless CAPTCHAs.

On the other hand, Bing still feels a bit like the "old school" search engines, and I've had better success finding the rare and niche "weird stuff" with it; apparently you can even find stuff horribly beyond legality, which is not surprising given how "dumb" it is: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18876361

I'd say the "fun and weird" Internet is definitely still alive; but the efforts of search engines to "clean up" their results have basically resulted in censorship and hiding of the less popular parts.


About search engines, https://searx.me works great on local content, per country.


Show me a declarative, idempotent API that will render MAME games and run old OSes inside a browser window.

Even show me a declarative, idempotent API that can generate an arbitrarily long scroll of user-generated content.

If your answer is that users shouldn't expect to be able to do these things, then you have aliased the word "web" to mean something that 99% of web users will not recognize.


> Even show me a declarative, idempotent API that can generate an arbitrarily long scroll of user-generated content.

RSS. With a good reader software.


You bring up a good point, and I've had similar conversations with my friend who is an avid Unity developer, which has a mostly imperative programming (IP) runtime with a declarative GUI.

Since functional programming (FP) and declarative programming (DP) have many similarities, the same issue of hardness (for lack of a better term) exists in languages like Elixer/Clojure/Julia/Haskell/Scala/F# etc etc.

This all comes down to one of the most poorly understood concepts in FP, the monad:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monad_(functional_programming)...

Honestly, I'm still not sure I understand internally how monads work, or if there are related terms for how I think of them. But monads (and related devices) are a way to deal with imperative logic and side effects when pure FP can't.

Imagine you're writing Tetris in a spreadsheet. It's easy to visualize how you might enter a piece's (x,y) coordinate in 2 cells and then pipe that through a series of cells containing logic that examines the blocks and outputs the next (x,y) coordinate for the following main loop.

But the actual main loop (that grabs input events) is very hard to visualize as a spreadsheet. This "glue" with the imperative stuff is where the monad comes in. Another way to think of it is, how to represent exceptions in a spreadsheet or a pure functional implementation of a promise chain (you can't without monads).

To write Tetris in HTML/CSS with no Javascript, we'd probably have to write a ton of CSS rules to show/hide/move DOM elements based on the state. That's an intractable problem for humans, so we'd probably compile the CSS from another language, which defeats the whole purpose. Maybe someone has tried it, I can't tell:

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=6709466

https://codepen.io/alexdevp/pen/pgdKf

But if we had something like a CSS monad, then we could write rules that are based on dynamic state from other rules. Writing this all out now, something like this might be useful, if anyone knows of such a thing.

Anyway, from what I understand, languages like Clojurescript get around this by suspending execution via a monad and then entering again with new input. Here is an almost purely functional Tetris clone written in Clojurescript:

https://github.com/yogthos/clj-tetris

Piece definitions, with code to offset/rotate the matrices and check for collisions by counting the number of cells to see if any have overlapped:

https://github.com/yogthos/clj-tetris/blob/master/src/tetris...

https://github.com/yogthos/clj-tetris/blob/master/src/tetris...

What I assume to be a thread sleep and JS setTimeout monads:

https://github.com/yogthos/clj-tetris/blob/master/src/tetris...

https://github.com/yogthos/clj-tetris/blob/master/src/tetris...

https://github.com/yogthos/clj-tetris/blob/master/src/tetris...

I know that code looks a little strange. But conceptually it's orders of magnitude simpler than that equivalent imperative code. Note that this is different from easy:

https://medium.com/@kiksdium/simple-vs-easy-bfd897ab293c

TL;DR; you bring up a really good point. FP and DP probably shouldn't be considered proven techniques until they can be used in the same problem domains as IP.


>This all comes down to one of the most poorly understood concepts in FP, the monad:

Of the languages you mentioned just Haskell, and Scala to some extent, has any deep concept of monads (and even in haskell they’re not part of the language, just a common idiom and ”easily” implemented)

Also, I’m using FP for the exact problems I used to use IP for, not sure what needs ti be proven..?


Oh sorry ya I went off the deep end a bit.

What I was trying to get at is that (IMHO) somehow the FP and DP paradigm has a huge blind spot when it comes to tackling the problems that IP solves handily. These are the problems that mostly involve integrating with the outside world - things like mutating state, exceptional situations, side effects etc.

Sure FP can largely avoid them via strong type handling and categories etc, but I've rarely seen good explanations of how to REALLY do something that programmers like to do, like write video games and social media feeds (things which the parent poster alluded to).

It's easy to visualize FP as a spreadsheet where the inputs generate a certain output. It's even straightforward to visualize how FP and IP are equivalent:

https://cs.stackexchange.com/questions/44305/why-are-functio...

https://cstheory.stackexchange.com/questions/625/relationshi...

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Church–Turing_thesis

But I'm not convinced that pure functional programming can handle the simplest thing like new input without suspending execution or via a device like a monad. I also wonder if using those things makes functional programming impure. Which would make pure functional programming a fantasy..

This is maybe just a misunderstanding on my part since I haven't actually written much FP since learning Scheme back in the 90s. I'm all ears if you or anyone else knows of any articles exploring these issues.


Scheme was my first functional language actually. The general computational model is very similar to haskell untill you get to homoiconicity/metaprogramming.

Purity (and lazyness) is primarily there to help you reason about your code with referential transparency (purity ensures no side effects, and lazyness makes dealing with (certain parts of) bottom (think undefined) easier).

Of course any program needs to communicate with the outside world, and monads are a very general way of dealing with this. It’s worth noting that the first releases of haskell did not handle IO with monads.

At the same time, haskell contains functions to subvert lazyness (the function seq, which forces strict evaluation), and purity (the Debug.trace function which prints values in the middle of evaluating a pure function).

There’s also some fairly well-founded arguments that the State-monad violates the monad laws, which causes problems for referential transparency.

And you can still write a divergent function, in which case all your referential transparency goes out the window (kinda)..

Does this make haskell less pure? Probably, but since these are generally considered escape hatches or debug functions, the main paradigm of the language allows you (imho) to reason about your code in a way that’s (again imho) more amenable to separating your problem logically into discrete parts.

At the same time these escape hatches allow us to use haskell in the situations you describe. And you can often wrap them in a monad, in a way that allows you to reason about that boundary of the more purely logical parts of your code.

(There is obviously a tradeoff to using a type system like haskell’s. I’m a big fan of elm, precisely because it makes typed functional progamming easier to explain, and doesn’t distract people with all the fancy type theory stuff you can find in haskell (which I also love of course, and don’t get me started on agda))


Ok that all makes sense (I think). OK after sleeping on it, I had an epiphany about monads:

A monad is analogous to the imaginary number i.

So in FP, a monad gets passed along as a placeholder until it can be computed. Here is a pretty good description of how they work:

https://medium.com/@newhouseb/motivating-monads-f93c9ddf7014

I agree with his analysis except that in his "MAGIC TRICK" example, I would have used something that is UNDEFINED in the interim but can be computed to a real value at the end (just like how we use i as a placeholder device in math). His example:

f(x) = x^2 + x + 1

g(x) = 2x

h(x) = sqrt(x)

m(x, f) = UNDEFINED, if x is UNDEFINED f(x), if it isn’t

m(m(h(-1), g), f) ~= (2(sqrt(-1)))^2 + 2(sqrt(-1)) + 1 ~= -3 + 2i ~= UNDEFINED

In this case, the 2(sqrt(x)) is still undefined for -1, so can't be simplified further, so the answer is UNDEFINED.

But I probably would have used an example like:

f(x) = x^2 + 1 # <- note that his was x^2 + x + 1

g(x) = 2x

h(x) = sqrt(x)

m(x, f) = UNDEFINED, if x is UNDEFINED f(x), if it isn’t

m(m(h(-1), g), f) ~= (2(sqrt(-1)))^2 + 1 ~= (2(i))^2 + 1 = -3

See, using i or a monad as a placeholder allows us to compute a real answer.

In FP, all computable parts of the stack could be collapsed (optimized). Then if anything is left uncomputed, the runtime could block on any involved monad. Then when the monad is set to a real value from the input stream, it could be collapsed completely and return the final answer.

I haven't succeeded in learning Haskell yet, but when I tried, I got stuck on its mutability implementation, which seems to use monads:

https://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Haskell/Mutable_objects

Honestly today, I would prefer to use pure FP. I think that allowing mutability anywhere in the language is a huge cost, because we can no longer visualize the whole thing as a spreadsheet.

I'd really like to know if another FP language solved the mutating state problem by doing something more like ClojureScript (CS), where it stops execution until the monad gets set from the runtime. Unfortunately, it looks like CS has mutable variables via reset!:

https://stackoverflow.com/a/36847124/539149

So it's not pure either :-/

Anyway, I'm still learning. Hope this helps someone.


I’m not sure that discussion of monads is super helpful. It’s not neccessarily wrong, but it doesn’t get to the meat of the matter.

Monads doesn’t represent uncomputable values like sqrt(-1), it’s more like they represent a context, where computations take place.

So you can separate all computations involving IO into the parameterized function type ’Monad a’, where a is your result type


(In the IO case that would be ’IO a’)

>Monopolies and duopolies now receive the lion's share of funding for research

This for me is especially soul-crushing. Some of the biggest minds of our time are working, devoting their talents and their ful attention, to the noble goal of... making us click more ads.

These people could be trying to research diseases, to come up with solutions for the big problems that affect us -- in short, working to to improve our lives. Instead, we reward those that make our lives even more miserable/erode democracy/help concentrate power even more. In our economic system, those are the ones that get rewarded.

Sigh.


I'd agree with #1 and #4, combined— "regular" people are very much siloed into apps that narrow the kind of media that get to them. Sure, the videos and photos are better than before, but that's just two types of content.

In my mind, weird/interesting internet died with the phrase "link in bio."


Well you have all proven my hypothesis wrong. Please stop upvoting this comment before you give me a complex :-P


We should invent a term for this, if it doesn't already exist?

"I'm going to get downvoted, but..." - proceeds to get upvoted

"Unpopular opinion: " - is actually a popular opinion


I propose we reach for Dickens to name this form of insincere disclaimer, and call it a "Heepsclaimer": https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uriah_Heep


According to Google, you are the first person on the internet to ever use this word.

I like it. I'm going to start using this.


Aristotle's already got you covered with "aporia".

_Ars Rhetorica_, BTW is great read.


Well, it is mostly probably survivorship bias... you don't see the comments that say they are going to get downvoted and actually get downvoted.


If anyone is wondering, these exist. You can see them if you turn showdead on. Been interesting experience using it for a while.


I don’t know how to translate it in English, but in Italian there’s a specific term: Cleuasmo.

It’s a rhetorical device meant to captivate the audience by humility.


To add context, is a type of captatio benevolentia (“obtaining benevolence/captivating”) and as such is typically placed at the start of a discussion.

Someone uses cleuasms (I’m gonna create a word by inferring a translation) many times in a discussion. Pay attention: this unsolicited and reiterated form of humbleness can be too much. If you shouldn’t have right for a statement, apply suspension instead ;)


Weird, I was actually writing a response wondering whether there was a term for this phenomenon and then got distracted by work. I made a post about a week ago that I thought would be fairly unpopular and it ended up being my most upvoted post yet. It's like a super specific form of self doubt.


Decrying modern JavaScript is upvote bait on HN.


MySpace was a centralized for-profit site that owned your data, no different than any other, they just happened to allow more advanced design editing than similar sites today (which we look back on nostalgically, but I promise you they were ugly and crappy and fb an amazing breath of fresh air at the time). They do not, however, represent any sort of utopian free internet.

The problem is our wants have become too complex. A blog site that used to be simple self-hosted markup, now requires commenting, moderation, voting, recommendations, authentication, backup, performance, media, analytics, seo, and more. How much coding skill can we expect from people? And even if they had it, should everyone use their time re-implementing or deploying and maintaining tens of individual platforms to participate on the web? There doesn't seem to be a feasible way but to centralize. And now you need to monetize and people have shown they are not willing to pay money, leaving the only other possibility we know: monetizing the data - which, of course, only encourages even more centralization and data capture.

None of this is new, but these are the fundamental natural forces that need to be addressed.


This is 100% correct. The only thing I can add is that the profit seeking and consolidation is now hurting the remaining enclaves of weird fun on the Internet. For instance, many of niche subcultures that once thrived on Geocities still thrive on Tumblr, but the leadership of Tumblr is not happy about this fact.

When Marissa Mayer was in control of Yahoo (which included Tumblr) she used to brag about how she was using a "data driven" approach to maximize the revenue from Yahoo. This seems to have been abysmal for the actual users. Engagement on Tumblr stagnated, then declined. The great business guru Peter Drucker has pointed out that entrepreneurs often ruin their own products because they are uncomfortable with the type of success they end up with. Marissa Mayer would be an example of this. She had one of the great gems of the Internet, but she was uncomfortable with how weird it was. And it is difficult for leadership to really lead when the leadership is uncomfortable with the product they have.

I tried to capture how destructive her rhetoric about "data driven decision making" can be when I wrote the essay "When companies make a fetish of being data driven they reward a passive aggressive style":

"I’m especially curious because Google is famous for basing its decisions on “data”. I have no idea how things work in Google, but I can say that every company I’ve worked at that supposedly valued “data” in meetings actually valued something darker. The use of “data” in meetings tends to be a passive aggressive negotiating tactic for a group of people who for cultural or emotional reasons don’t think it is reasonable to express strong disagreement or actual anger. Instead of expressing strong emotion, people are taught to quote data — they then cherry pick whatever statistics back up their beliefs."

As far as I know, there has never been a company that said “We want the worst informed people to make the decisions” so in a sense all companies have always valued data. But they didn’t make a fetish out of it. They simply expected people to be well informed, and to make intelligent arguments, based on what they know. That would have been true at General Motors in 1950. That much has probably been true at most companies for centuries. When management says that the company is going to be “data driven” they are implicitly asking for a particular type of interaction to happen in meetings, an elaborate dance where people hide their emotions and quote statistics.

Trust your instincts. Over the years, we often condense many years of learning to a few simple rules. If you asked me from what peer-reviewed study I learned to value minimalist design, I would not be able to answer you — it comes from dozens of books, hundreds of articles, thousands of conversations, and countless observations, and if the accumulated wisdom of my years of experience is of no value to you, then why did you hire me?

Obviously I am not advocating that meetings should be abusive. No one should be allowed to talk over another person, as that would be disrespectful, but when one has a chance to speak, often the most effective kind of communication is one where people show how strongly they feel about an issue. If you are an experienced professional, then presumably you’ve been hired because the company wants to know the lessons you’ve learned over the years. If your instincts tell you that a given policy will be a disaster, don’t let anyone silence you with their demands for “data.” Speak the truth that you know."

http://www.smashcompany.com/business/when-companies-make-a-f...


You're missing the point completely. The deprecation of flash and the push for CSS are the unique reason things have changed


This is completely on point ^. I remember those times, and I also long for a weirder, more creative and more frontier-like internet! The combination of a strong reaction to Flash, which had begun to dominate the web around 2001, and the well-intended, but simultaneous push for web standards created an insurmountable course over-correction. Then the iPhone's non-support for Flash in 2007 was the final nail in the coffin. The web was never the same. We got standards (yay), but we made it unfashionable to be really CREATIVE with code. It was no longer cool to do something totally different and unique with code. There was no longer any point in putting information on the web if it wasn't cross-browser, cross-device, and future-proof. While standards have been a boon to our profession, they completely zapped the old internet. I am hopeful the pendulum will swing the other way.


I believe mobile / response / bootstrap killed the unique designs. CSS helped make things easier over inline style tags


i'm intrigued by your comment(2) concerning declarative, idempotent roots. could you add more language to that?


To take a simple example, HTML was originally a pure markup language, so if you wanted to make text bold you <b>would do it like this</b>; simple, declaritive

But then it was decided that there was no semantic purpose to the <b> tag, <span style="font-weight:bold">so it became this</span>.

Now, with the ubiquity of js, it's more like <span id="bold-text">this</span> (along with something like getElementById("bold-text").setAttribute("style", "font-weight:bold") in the background).

It should be pointed out that things come full-circle: frameworks like Bootstrap define the <strong> tag which, via similar JS to above, all-but-duplicate the functionality of the original <b> tag. I think the OP's point though is that you have to add a JS framework to do this.


What? <strong> is a tag defined in the HTML standard (with a bold default-styling in browsers). There is absolutely no need for frameworks to do anything to it, especially not with JS.

<span style=...> vs <b> vs <strong> have different semantic meaning, and all have valid uses in modern HTML.


I think this is a bit confused? <span style="font-weight:bold">bold text</span> would be appropriate for a span of text that is to be set in bold for no semantically-relevant reason, otherwise you would use something like <strong class="important">this (please read carefully!)</strong>, and then use CSS to style the "important" class as bold. The <b> tag has actually been revived, but it is reserved for a span of text that is to be clearly set apart from its surroundings for some semantic reason unrelated to emphasis, importance or anything that's covered by other HTML tags or features.


<span style="font-weight:bold"> is not invalid from a literalist perspective. It will still be bold.

Semantic markup is nice, but 'div/span soup' is still very popular and isn't technically incorrect.


Have you looked at the linked post? It creates a powerful mechanism for introducing new declarative elements. And gasp it uses JavaScript.

   import Ghost from "../components/Ghost"; 
   <Ghost size={80}>Thanks for reading!</Ghost>


I think you're overlooking CSS as well, which is a very nice declarative way that maintains semantics and makes styling more adjustable.

<span class="bold-text">this</span> and .bold-text {font-weight: 600;}


strong has been around for a long time.


Ya there are lots of articles on them, but let's start with these:

http://latentflip.com/imperative-vs-declarative

https://stackoverflow.com/questions/45016234/what-is-idempot...

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Side_effect_(computer_science)

The early goal of the web was to create a longterm available, reliable, discoverable network of media over an inherently unreliable transport.

I keep trying to write a concise explanation of these but I can't fit it in a comment. Let's do it DECLARATIVELY haha:

imperative->functional->declarative

for()->foreach()->map()->executables+pipes->spreadsheet

C/BBS->perl/cgi-bin->Apache->HTML/CSS

manual network config->DNS

state machine/brittle long running process/fear of manual retry->idempotent request/response

Always, always, always work towards the rightmost side if you want the least side effects and highest reliability (critical for a distributed system built on unreliable parts!)

I'd like to say that declarative idempotency was an immediately obvious thing to the architects of the www, but what really happened is more like Darwinian evolution where each solution's fitness was measured by reliability. Declarative idempotency was also cheaper because requests/responses could be cached and scaled.

If we flip it around for a moment, imagine a web without these things. Every site would have a complex tangle of brittle code to do even the most trivial operations, and it wouldn't be able to pass data on to other sites (it would be an app). Without idempotency, users would have to be really careful to only click the send button once when they were transferring money (thankfully this hasn't happened much).

The one thing that I wish the web had though was a layer to make unreliable communication reliable. It would look something like a promise or future with no exceptional logic. That way we could think in terms of wiring up the inputs and outputs of many websites and then "load" it to execute the logic. Kind of like Ansible, where internally the logic is imperative but on the surface is declarative.

I'd also like to see declarative idempotence replace imperative code (especially object-oriented programming) at the developer level.


Incorrect. I was there the moment this flipped. It was actually with a bang, not a whimper.

The iPhone came out. Before the iPhone DSL was a thing, making big-ish pages was a thing.

Suddenly your pages had to be downloaded on a 2g connection. Eventually 3g, and 3g today is seen as insanity, but back then was the best we can get and still only few could get that.

We started to minify the hell out of our code. Every byte was critical. CDNs were used to speed every bit of our site up. Google came out with their research that you have ~150ms to serve content before it stops feeling instantaneous.

Boom.

Eventually tools came out to make all this so easy, why wouldn't you do it.

And thus here we are today.

I was using the internet when AltaVista was a thing. Searching was SLOW! If you wanted to find something online, grab a cup of tea, because its gonna be a while.


And ad companies like Google who have become so big that they can basically crush their competition. If you said 10 years ago that the most popular web browser right now is made by an ad company, people would have thought you're nuts but here we are. They basically control the very code that fetch and render those ads right at the end-user level.


Is this all set in stone?

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