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If I could bring one thing back to the internet it would be blogs (tttthis.com)
1186 points by TTTThis 12 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 614 comments

The best way to bring back blogs is to start with your own. It looks like this is the author's fourth post and s/he hit a home run with the top post on HN.

But that's rarely how things work.

The thing few people tell you when you start blogging is how futile it will seem - for a long, long time. You'll start by posting something you put a lot of work into. You'll publish, thinking of all the comments and emails you'll get.

Then, nothing. You'll check the analytics. Abysmal. Nobody is reading!

You may write a few more posts, but it's always the same story. A lot of work goes in, but not much comes out.

And this is the point at which most bloggers stop. After all, how can you justify more time spent on something that doesn't pay back?

The problem is that with a blog you need to think in terms of years. You have to write regularly over the course of years before you'll get any kind of reliable following.

In the meantime, you'll notice how blogging regularly changes you. You'll notice patterns you never noticed before, especially if you stick to a particular "beat." You'll get better at choosing topics. You'll figure out ways to write faster. You'll get better at pushing through mental fog and procrastination that keeps so many others from writing.

You may also discover that you really, really hate writing. Nothing wrong with that, but understand that many people also dislike writing anything longer than a tweet. And that's why good blogs are kind of scarce. And therein lies the opportunity.

Those blogs from the time before were written for the purpose of writing, not for the purpose of getting lots of viewership. The blogs the author misses aren't written to make money off of ad traffic, they were just written to put down ideas. Today that need is filled with Facebook/Twitter/... and even there with the currency of likes/comments those motivations get twisted.

Some of the internet has also shifted to a privacy centric attitude. The whole world is a big place to share intimate stories which will be indexed and used against you in job interviews or by oppressive governments.

I still think there's value in private blogging, writing just to keep your friends and family informed. Blogging doesn't always have to be sharing with the whole world. I wish there were more platforms to make this easy to do.

> Those blogs from the time before were written for the purpose of writing, not for the purpose of getting lots of viewership.

Or, to put that another way: blogs are/were effectively people publicizing their diaries. (Or, in the case of a work blog, publicizing the contents of their https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inventor%27s_notebook).

> Today that need is filled with Facebook/Twitter/

Not really? Facebook/Twitter/etc. are for "what you're thinking right now." Incomplete, out-of-context thoughts. Maybe conversations, where the thought plus access to the author for further questioning can "add up to" a complete, legible text.

I've never seen Facebook/Twitter used for "a breakthrough in understanding you've had, and want to preserve for posterity and your own future reference; where enough context is given that you (or someone else) can recapture the whole of the idea just from the words on the page, 10+ years down the line." That's the sole province of blogging. (Or of books, journal papers, and open letters. But blogs are a lot lower-overhead than any of those.)

> I've never seen Facebook/Twitter used for ...

Sports journalists (including the mathy ones) use Twitter this way. And, boy howdy, do I hate it. But they do.

Twitter is not just incomplete/out of context thoughts. It can be. But not always. Follow the right people. I find it’s great for Javascript patterns and new findings. Of course the content is not discussed in great detail but you can get a quick jist from various sources. The same with instagram for photos. I much prefer to see photos in series but quick snapshot from various sources in one platform. This is what’s destroyed blogging mostly in my opinion, you can micro blog quickly. People used to blog because they wanted a presence on the internet, now you can have that with social media platforms

I am curious about the story behind your username. I don't understand it.

>> Those blogs from the time before were written for the purpose of writing, not for the purpose of getting lots of viewership.

Exactly this. Im not sure if my experience was typical, but i recall lots of small mini communities of bloggers, where each blog would have less than a dozen real followers, but everyone would read the other peoples content. Thats why you had the "follows" tab on the sidebar of the blog.

I also recall a distinction between homepages (IE where useful static information collected in one place) and blogs (personal stories not with the goal of teaching). Homepages could have lots of traffic but little real interaction (like FB today). Blogs would have lots of detailed interaction but but very little viewership.

Definitely true for me in the 2000s. My social network formed a bunch of circles with very little overlap. A blog, like the ones I and some of my friends used to have, would serve as a bridge, thanks to the sidebar linking to other people the blog author reads/recommends. Back in the day, I used to be active in a local gamedev scene, so my sidebar was mostly full of links to blogs of other hobbyist/aspiring game developers, who would in turn link back to me. If you were interested in gamedev, you could easily go from blog to blog and enumerate almost everyone in the group, but at each step you also had an opportunity to branch out to a given author's other interests.

It was a nice way of discovering new things, and a more personal one. You jumped around topics and social networks simultaneously; at every step it wasn't just a new theme, but a new person, an acqauintance of an acquaintance, someone with a name (or more likely then, a nickname) you would remember and refer back to in conversations. Even though we mostly didn't know one another except from blogs and IRC, the Internet felt much more like a village back then. Now, it feels like a strip mall.

Well, this is why I don’t have a blog. I have a lot of strong opinions that might be interesting to some people, but I don’t want to miss opportunities because some HR person googled my name and found a post they disagreed with. Or, in the future, not a real person but an algorithm.

Anecdotal counterexample: I successfully moved from development into technical writing because I had a blog that a company got in touch with me about and said, "We really like your writing. Have you considered being a technical writer?"

My honest feeling is that if you're a good writer and not just posting ranty flamebait -- and "strongly worded and highly opinionated" is not the same thing, although it can be -- blogging is valuable. Or at least it used to be. And really, I'd like to see it make more of a return, too.

Sometimes I feel like I want to write something I have strong opinions about, then I realize how much research I would have to do to actually justify my unfounded opinions and give up.

It requires work to avoid being flamebaity

Start an anonymous blog. I have one. Also an anonymous hacker news account. :)

The trouble with that is that once you post something to it you can never associate it with yourself (even accidentally!) or deanonymization of everything else posted by that identity will also occur.

Half baked idea: A decentralized and properly anonymized (at the protocol level) service intended for long-form articles. Employ cryptographic primitives to allow association of a single article with one or more identities at any time after publication. (I suspect such a system would just end up getting abused, but who knows?)

"Hi! It looks like you're trying to solve complex social problems with technology. Would you like some help in your futile endeavour?"

What complex social problem? All I see are a few technical problems regarding security, anonymity, and interrelations between nodes on a graph. There's also a closely related ease of use (ie UX) problem regarding the convenience (or rather lack thereof) of publishing things in a reasonably anonymous manner.

All the social problems, such as the underlying reasons for wanting or needing anonymity in the first place, remain.

It is a social problem because even the strongest, most bullet-proof cryptography solution can't prevent people slipping up and making mistakes, which a motivated attacker can then use to de-anonymize and connect their various identities together.

And people will slip up and make mistakes. A lot.

I agree that the potential for making mistakes could contribute to a social problem, but it's one that already exists. I also wasn't proposing to solve it - hence my earlier response.

“Authorship Attribution” is an active field of research. Even if you manage to solve the problem of anonymously publishing a bunch of content under distinct anonymous pseudonyms (or completely anonymously), there’s a non-negligible probability that, as soon as the author of one work is identified, the entire body of work can be attributed to that person.

> Half baked idea: A decentralized and properly anonymized (at the protocol level) service intended for long-form articles. Employ cryptographic primitives to allow association of a single article with one or more identities at any time after publication. (I suspect such a system would just end up getting abused, but who knows?)

The downside is that as a reader you wouldn’t be able to follow your favorite authors anymore.

I'm about to release something very similar to this. You might see it here in a week or two

This sounds cool - I'll be keeping an eye out!

You can invent a separate identity with the goal of being deanonymized one day. And post what you want to keep anonymous using other identities.

That won't be safe for very long. De-anonymization based on writing style is pretty good already.

That's definitely true, but depending on the usecase it might not matter all that much. Also, that problem already applies to an anonymous blog anyway!

Consider the usage of semi-anonymous accounts on HN or Reddit or wherever. There's some risk of deanonymization depending on usage style and how determined the attacker is, but it's still quite different from openly publishing things in a manner that links back to you directly.

The issue for me is that (for an anonymous blog) once I decide to publish something to it the article becomes permanently and publicly linked to all the others as well. This means that I can never change my mind in the future without simultaneously changing my mind about all the other content published there. It also means that if I ever slip up (say on a non-anonymous HN account) and reveal that I'm the author then I've inadvertently and publicly tied the entire blog to myself (not just that one article).

An anonymous blog platform that offers a permanent and trusted Delete button could both let you change your mind about a former opinion and offer a fix in case of accidental slip-up

> a permanent and trusted Delete button

Any time bits leave your computer it would be wise to assume that they're out in the world for good. Especially for anything with a distributed architecture, presumably all you have control over is whether your personal box continues distributing it. I suppose you could set a "don't distribute" flag and hope that other hosts choose to honor it ...

Maybe AI that changes the writing style to monotonous style would help.

Say, you always write like Yoda speaks, "Great you are." Then the AI would change it to, "You are great."

I know, I know, it's a tall order.

I suspect that resulting articles would be, while probably reasonably safe from style analysis, awfully boring and difficult to read. Good and interesting writing style is a skill.

You could pass it through a Google Translate, or maybe a couple, then back - correct for minor errors and style has changed (maybe not that much, but enough to scare AI).

Not necessarily that tall: you just need copies of a long enough text, written in different writing styles.

How would such a system be "abused"? What does abuse of a blogging platform even look like? People might write text that others don't want to read?

I hadn't really thought it through honestly. I'm just assuming that if an anonymized publishing service with a low barrier to entry exists that people will find creative ways to misuse it. Semi-related Google Drive usage: (https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19907271)

Consider all the issues that Reddit and HN have with spam and other sorts of abuse. Then again, BitTorrent and IPFS seem to work well enough. At a minimum, I suspect that issues will tend to crop up anywhere a search or other curation mechanism exists that can potentially be gamed in order to gain an audience.

I did write a lot of articles anonymously back then(was afraid due to validation/criticism as I was learning) but later I found out that my blogs are legit and people liked them. And later couldn't associate with real me. Now making System design videos with real face and name and able to reach a subset of the audience. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCn1XnDWhsLS5URXTi5wtFTA/

Its better in a way. Stupidity rejects you and you end up being in a happy place where you dont have to bend your mind.

It'd be nice if robots.txt were actually respected so that your blog was visible to people you trackback, or from blogs that link to you, but not to search engines.

I find most of my blog entries using search engines. And I suspect I'm not alone in this. Blocking search engines gives you a serious bootstrap problem.

> The blogs the author misses aren't written to make money off of ad traffic, they were just written to put down ideas.

This is what I've been pointing out for years as the lost core of the internet.

It seems like this is a cultural shift in society as well. There are no more hobbies, everything is a side hustle and if you can’t turn a profit from it, it’s not worth doing. I’m not an economist or sociologist so I can’t Even pretend to understand why this is, but it’s a trend I’ve noticed over the past few years.

Not my experience at all. The mods plus fanmade expansions community is bigger than ever. And so is open source. Way more stuff is free now than ever before.

It's not about giving things away for free, it's about doing things you like to do just for your own satisfaction. While there is a lot of that in the mods and open source space, there's also a lot of resume building, portfolio projects, etc. There's an insane amount of pressure to always be "shipping to production" no matter if your hobby is crocheting, gardening, writing code, blogging, building robots, playing music, painting, etc.

Patreon, Etsy, OnlyFans, Kickstarter, and even Github (just to scratch the surface) all serve to put pressure on creators to turn their hobbies into second jobs.

I'm sorry you feel this way, but I do not think this is true for most creators. Too many of my friends have made wonderful things for the sake of it. And they're so self-effacing, they won't even mention these things.

Not judging you or your friends, but perhaps those who can do hobbies just for fun are in a position of privilege (enough time, money, financial and professional security) to be able to do so? The "hustle culture" is very real and is I think a side effect of the gig economy and the end of the 9-5 secure job with its strict boundaries of work and leisure time. If you still have that kind of job it's easier to have hobbies with no outcome than personal satisfaction (assuming no other "distractions" like small children). Most creators I happen to know are hustling, whether on Github or Wordpress or Etsy or IRL, either trying to make some money on the side or building a portfolio for their career or to help them score their next gig. Those that aren't are retired or have some secure, traditional 9-5.

Interesting. It's exactly the opposite. The guys I'm talking about are all running their own startups or at startups. So definitely not 9-5s.

Open source has a huge "personal brand-building" aspect to it

Is that true? Or is it just the case that people trying to make a profit have learned how to promote themselves to an extent that drowns out the hobbyists?

I had some hobby pages in the 1990s that got a lot of views and came high up in search results. None of them were ever deliberately publicised. I doubt that any of my material would show in the top 1000 of any web search today.

I've been saying for years that people need to stop pressuring themselves into being good at their hobbies. Have fun first, who cares if you can't sing/draw/paint?

This seems to be a function of the people you hang around with.

Hobbies for most people are a way to spend money, not make it. No one I know has "side hustles"

The internet has stopped being an internet but rather being a few large intranets.

It’s the corporate internet, upload/download ratio, it’s the lack of IP address space.

It’s social media, it’s private blogging platforms and it’s the plight for power.

It's the way you're given knowledge, slow with thought control and subtle hints

It's the fast talk they use to abuse and feed my brain

It stretches for as far as the eye can see

It's reality, fuck it, it's everything but me

Atmosphere - Scapegoat, with some blogging additions

Hell yeah! Never thought to find an Atmosphere reference in the comments @ HN.

It's VERY hard to make money with Google AdSense types of programs. The volume of traffic you need is so high that if you're there, it probably "pays" to sell the ads yourself and keep all the $$$. But that's hella difficult.

Almost all news organizations -- they're not bloggers but chances are they're using blogging software (mostly WordPress) -- have figured this out. And they're still not making enough money from advertising. Hence subscriptions. Bloggers can go this route directly with https://substack.com.

Google-owned YouTube's willingness to compensate those who make popular videos has fueled that service's growth and helped it draw a young audience.

The fact that Twitter, Facebook and Instagram have no way of "paying" its top performers, as it were, is interesting. You get paid in eyeballs. In exposure. Since the pay for blogs is usually non-existent, there's some value in the "likes," and most people who envision making money off of their social-media/internet presence need to get a side hustle to their side hustle -- a product they can make and sell.

I think it lives on in big platforms like Reddit, but I agree that it used to be far more prevalent on the net than it is.

Youtube is a good example. It used to be so fun to just throw up videos on the internet, without caring how far they would really go. I definitely think there are great content creators on it nowadays and I'm glad that they're being paid for their hard work, but it still feels like we've lost something.

>Those blogs from the time before were written for the purpose of writing, not for the purpose of getting lots of viewership.

This right here. You all need to calm down like you're all so unique you are all owed 1000s of views a day. Write for the sake of writing- it's rewarding in and of itself.

Facebook/Twitter is terrible for putting down ideas. You don’t control what happens to your content. Posts get lost in the sea of millions of other posts. These companies constantly change policies.

Writing is a public act. You might still be expecting some readership without the expectation of ad money or promotion of something.

What I miss most about the blogs in 90s and early 00s is the conversation between blogs by linking, quoting and commenting each other. Reading blogs involved going from one blog to another, and reading blogs of 10 people about a single issue. It was a conversation. And you would constantly discover new blogs this way.

The thing I miss most is LiveJournal. Sure, over time it kind of failed, and later having data owned by possibly nefarious new owners didn't help reputationally, but what I loved was having a small, approved set of people who could read, and getting to know other people in long form, where writing was the primary draw, rather than links, brags, and ads, like social media has become. I miss the very internal nature that the platform allowed, but it was a more naive time, where the idea that whatever was there would inevitably become public wasn't a barrier to intimacy.

> written for the purpose of writing, not for the purpose of getting lots of viewership

I've never really bought this line of argument. People who "write just for writing" don't publish. They write it in One Note or Evernote or Tiddlywiki or plain old text files on their laptop. They don't sign up for Wordpress accounts (or even worse, spend hours configuring some static site generator) and publish it.

People publish things because they want them to be read. Having no indication that they are being read is, understandably, discouraging for people who are publishing things.

There is of course a middle ground between 'writing for writing' and 'writing for payback'. For instance people might want to post how they did some stuff, with the hope that it helps at least one guy. That's how most blog were written.

Then internet slowly became a place where everything is a business opportunity, and blogs were relayed into the second zone. Google also somehow became much less useful when it comes to find good blogs, probably because of aggressive SEO.

This is so true... Youtube is kind of the new blog because so many people don't like writing but they love seeing themselves on screen. This made it too commercial. All the top youtubers do it just for the sponsorship. People like Linus Tech Tips etc, all this "check this out from our sponsors" crap. It really put me off Youtube. The only ones I still watch are zero punctuation and EEVBlog. Dave is also doing it as a job but at least he didn't become annoying.

Besides, I really prefer to read over watching videos as I can do it at my own pace. Except in cases where a lot is shown like EEVBlog, it makes sense there.

But easy platforms exist. Wordpress is still there :) You just have to keep it up to date like a hawk.

You might be interested by this: https://sponsor.ajay.app/

> I wish there were more platforms to make this easy to do.

Don't they all work like this by default? You don't have to share what you write everywhere. You also don't need to use FB or Twitter to blog.

I wouldn't put an idea on Twitter or Facebook. That's where I put a short joke, or a pun, or some political troll meme. Then I watch the mentions and likes roll in. That's not to say that it never happens, but they aren't really well made platforms for it, outside posting a link to an actual blog.

Personally, I think the blogosphere is covered pretty well for me by the likes of Medium. I'm not sure how I feel about that, but they've made a damn good job at cornering that part of the market for those more serious posts that were previously relegated to the blogosphere. That's a place I'd put a more well-formed idea. A great example is the article, "Coronavirus: Why You Must Act Now" by Thomas Pueyo.[1]

Outside that, blogs still exists! I still even have my own. I think the complaint is rather that they're hard to index or search. And to that end, there are many solutions and ways around it that still exist, such as syndication or even RSS.

[1]: https://medium.com/@tomaspueyo/coronavirus-act-today-or-peop...

I blog about my electronics project. It's public in that it's online and accessible but it is for me, both to ensure I think things through well enough to write them down coherently and to have a reference for decisions.

I blog my work activities on an internal wiki for similar reasons. Major decisions need to be gathered in project documentation but small decisions and daily challenges are good to have written down.

Yes - when I was overseas I kept a "blog" in the form of a website hosted at my university. I'd update it with a few pictures and some text about new things I was experiencing.

It was more of a journal and something maybe if my friends and family wanted to read, they could. A slightly extroverted way of showing your inner thoughts and life.

> used against you in job interviews

I used to think blogging come as complementary to your skills. How will anyone use them against you?

Well, it depends on what you blog about.

If, say, you blog about some social/economic/political position that is (or becomes) unpopular/unacceptable, your career may be toast. Such as, for example, happened for James Damore.

So if you're going to blog as your meatspace identity, you gotta protect your brand.

If you want to blog carelessly, you'd better do that using a persona that can't readily be linked to your meatspace identity. That's why I'm here as Mirimir.

But even then, Mirimir has a reputation to protect. And that's why I use other personas, which can't readily be linked to this one.

Can you leverage Mirimir ever in your real life? If Mirimir writes some stupendous essays but 5% of his posts are critical of say, some aspect of the LGBT community, then wouldn't it be a huge risk to your IRL reputation? Then you couldn't admit that you're Mirimir to others IRL.

But I like the idea of blogging under a fake name! This will sound ridiculous, but I'm a young individual with big ambitions. I don't want to blog, lest my future enemies figure out my psyche to use it against me.

Yes, that is indeed a limitation. Nobody IRL will ever know that I'm Mirimir. Also, I can't attend physical events as Mirimir, or do anything with audio/video.

I suppose that you could use other personas for totally non-controversial stuff. Indeed, you could have a range of them, and disclose some if you like.

There is the issue of writing style. At this point, Mirimir is my only persona that writes extensively in English. There are a few others that are basically Mirimir's pseudonyms. But my IRL identity doesn't post much in English. For some others, I've translated into other languages, using offline software.

> I don't want to blog, lest my future enemies figure out my psyche to use it against me.

I think you overestimate the sophistication of your future enemies. The bigger risk may be that by not blogging you don't figure out your psyche, to use it for you.

It's sad, but that's the reality of things in our "politically correct" modern world.

When are you thinking it was better?

The world hasn't had enormous user generated content platforms (where it's reasonably common to use your real name) for very long at all. But I would say it started out in a much better state than it is now, and has been progressively getting worse. It's reasonably common to have somebody held in high esteem by the various groups that are highly concerned with political correctness, suffer catastrophic falls from grace after some ancient tweet is discovered, from back in a time when it was OK to have opinions and make jokes. Personally, I would never risk publicly voicing an opinion on any topic that was strictly technical.

You mean "not strictly technical", right?

As Mirimir, I have voiced opinions about such topics. I'm not dogmatic, but neither do I avoid dark humor, so I suspect that I've managed to piss off some on every "side".

Anyway, I was thinking about decades ago. There were opinions that you just didn't voice, if you cared about your reputation. Back in the 50s, communism became a dangerous topic in the US. And homosexuality was a dangerous topic there until the late 70s. Although there were some flamboyant stars, and cartoon characters like Bugs Bunny, they were just perceived as strange.

Further back, dissent among Puritans in the Massachusetts Bay Colony led to the establishment of Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New Hampshire.

> You mean "not strictly technical", right?

Yes I did, sorry.

The rest of your comment here highlights why I believe freedom of expression is so important. Society would not have progressed if it were not for people brave enough to defy those social norms. I guess the intolerance for alternative points of view has not changed, but over the past ten years or so we have seen the establishment of an entirely new set of sacred social norms, which I would characterize as a bit of a regression.

> ... over the past ten years or so we have seen the establishment of an entirely new set of sacred social norms ...

That depends on who you are, and where you hang out.

By "sacred social norms", I presume that you mean what some call the "social justice movement": liberal perspectives on "race", culture, sexuality, gender, and other human rights. It's true that those norms now apply for liberal mass media, academica, and large enterprises. And increasingly, they've become part of state and federal law.

Those norms reflect activism over at least the past 200 years. However, change hasn't been steady or even monotonic. Recent reverses occurred during the Reagan era, driven by the Moral Majority. And again during the Bush II era, driven by them and the New Right.

American society has also become increasingly polarized since the 60s. Although the mass media has become increasingly liberal, the Fox News Network and associated talk radio developed. And since the early 90s, development of the Internet has dramatically increased polarization.

So now we're in the Trump era. By 2016, American society was already so polarized that the liberal mass media was totally blind sided by Trump's election. And even after three years, they're still convinced that it was a Russian plot.

Anyway, it's hard to say whether the intolerance of the "social justice movement" has caused the backlash, or whether the backlash has driven the intolerance. But either way, both sides are ~equally intolerant.

And yes, it's a disturbing development. At some point, it may drive the US to partition. Much like India split off Pakistan, but on a larger scale.

I mostly agree with you. But I do take issue with this:

>But either way, both sides are ~equally intolerant.

When I was growing up it was the intolerance of Christian morality that prevented people from living their lives and expressing themselves the way they wanted to. The intolerance was a largely bipartisan (see the PMRC with Tipper Gore and Paula Hawkins for instance), but it was really the Democrats that gave way to social progress first, and the Republican party still today retains a reputation for Christian puritanism. The modern flavor of puritanism most certainly comes more from the other side of the isle (whether you want to call it the "social justice movement" or anything else). The basis of each of those political stances is the same. People should not be able say anything they want, or live any way they please, because allowing them to do so would risk causing offence. I've supported gay marriage since the 90s, and for the same reason that I support freedom of expression today. In the past those views (which I have not changed) aligned me much more firmly with the "left" than the "right", and the reverse is true today. I would argue that modern "progressive" (or whatever else you want to call it) politics has no room for freedom of expression, because it won't tolerate anything seen as "offensive", "hateful" or "dangerous". Which is basically the same premise that has obstructed all of our past social progress up to this point.

> In the past those views (which I have not changed) aligned me much more firmly with the "left" than the "right", and the reverse is true today.

Yeah, same here.

But arguably the "right" just talks that way because they're recruiting. If they had a lock on the government, and the mass media bagged, they'd be far less tolerant.

But in any case, that's why I'm an anonymous coward. In meatspace, I just keep my head down. Nothing to see here, move along.

I won't argue whether the (American) left is necessarily protecting free speech at all costs. That's a complicated question.

But I think it's a stretch to call the situation "reversed". You can see the right often using the very methods and talking points they seem to criticize on the left. From efforts to shut down protests, to constant usage of patriotic symbols to silence speech ("if you kneel during the anthem, you're disrespecting the flag"), to starting investigations for cases where speech didn't align with their values.

Here's an article about growing right-wing threats to free speech on campus for example. Note, this article was published in Reason of all places: https://reason.com/2019/09/19/the-growing-right-wing-threat-...

I've recently built https://flipso.com — It's a mix of Posterous and Tumblr with optional private channels you mentioned.

I often notice when I start writing on a particular topic, I learn more about my thoughts and opinions of it and realize my thoughts are wrong or not really novel. Halfway in I give up since I feel like, "oh, this actually isn't really adding anything new to the conversation". Then I leave with a new humbleness about my beliefs but also a sense of "when am I actually going to know enough to warrant writing about it?".

That's awesome! If only most people would do that, I think the internet would be a much more entertaining and enlightening place.

Here's the thing: write that. Go meta, just a little, and write about your journey. "I thought this, but then I found out that, and now my questions have evolved thus..."

I think it was Orson Welles who, when somebody asked him if they could write his biography, said, "No, because it will be false. You may write the story of your attempt to discover the truth of my life."

You can add tremendious value just by publishing your research and linking to the sources, even if you have not added anything, those hours you spent searching - that your readers dont have to, and likely your readers dont have the same experience as you, so they wont be able to read the sorces critically. So by not adding anything, you can still save someone years of time.

There is also nothing wrong with serving good knowelage, even if you can find the information somewhere else. Maybe your source is 10 years old, what has happened since? Or maybe its hard to understand for laymen. Or maybe the other sources will fall off the web, great websites disappears in the thousands every day.

Maybe someone is looking for a tech, but there's little info out there, even if the i info is good, it can still be dismissed. Help spread the knowledge.

Then there's the noise to signal problem. Your blog will be a light beacon - for others to navigate around all the crap.

Coming from the guy who made the best biopic movie of all time, I would expect nothing less.

It also seems likely that that idea is also not novel, so that the previous poster wouldn't want to blog publicly about it.

You've gone too meta. ;-)

I struggle with this too, but then I think on how many of the blogs I read basically say the same thing over and over again, or just rephrase ideas from other places.

When you're familiar with an idea, it seems to you like it's obvious and it's mentioned everywhere, but there are also lots of people out there for whom it will be new. Maybe you aren't the first one to say it, but you're the first one they heard it from. You'll inevitably put your own spin on it, too. I've been working on convincing myself that it's not necessary to come up with some completely novel thought that nobody ever thought before in order to just post something. Practically nobody does that.

I am similar but I would suggest that you could reframe your post. "I started this post with the intention of... and then realised that... (The idea is not a new one/I was wrong/changed my mind because/the idea doesn't make sense etc)." You could even link back to more informative resources on the topic.

Not everything has to be new or novel. You may add to the discussion and enhance it by writing about what informed your change of heart.

thats a great mindset, but its also funny because a lot of blog posts that do well are about rehashing basic things like "why open offices suck", or "why i chose node instead of ruby"

Yeah and when I think about writing about rehashing basic things, I realize why those basic things are so prevalent and why they actually shouldn't be rehashed. It's like a call to enlightenment.

The end result of any good writing process is a writer who does no longer need to write it in the first place.

What about when I go through this process so fast that I don't even need to write about it to realize I know nothing?

I'm 26 and I see people writing about stuff that are much younger than me and I still think "I know nothing". Maybe I have a huge case of imposter syndrome?

I have this happen too. What this means at least for me, is that I have dozens of little ideas of things to write about, usually after I’ve seen that I’ve encountered it multiple times, I really think I have a position on it, and I want to really see where they would go (those who know me on the site may have some good guesses as to what I currently have stashed for this). And then I stick that idea in a little list I call “future blog posts” and slowly add ideas to them over months (note I have not actually written anything for the blog post yet!) until they are polished the key points I really want to include and a coherent story that I want to tell with them. Then I sit down and write them, and by that time I’m very confident of which way I’m going, the rebuttals and my responses to those just flow naturally, and I generally keep that position in the future.

That happens to me too. You really thing you have something interesting to tell, and then bam, just a silly thought... good that I realized that before publishing it.

I'm curious what your silly thoughts are. How do you know that I will share your judgement of what a silly thought is? What is a silly thought to you after writing something down might be of interest to a random internet user. Is it not presumptive to assume that everyone else will share your judgement?

That's a good point. I sometimes get a feeling that only an idiot would think my thoughts were good and most people are not idiots so whatever I write about won't be useful.

I look at it as a writing exercise along the lines of "you remember 60% of what you hear and 90% of what you had to research and write". Yeah, your article probably isn't going to catch fire and open a bunch of eyes. But the exercise of writing it almost certainly improved your understanding of the problem space, so if it ends up being useful to someone or gets you some small amount of clout that's a bonus.

This is me, but for writing and also for business ideas.

I'm the same way, I remember getting that feeling of sudden understanding right at the end of writing an essay in school. But I no longer had any time left to actually present my new found understanding.

On the other hand, writing things down or explaining them is a good way to find flaws in your understanding.

> You'll check the analytics. Abysmal. Nobody is reading!

And that, right there, is the best reason to remove all analytics from your blog/website[1]. At the risk of being held guilty of self-promotion, I wrote a little blog post about just this a couple of weeks ago: https://one.mikro2nd.net/2020/05/why-no-web-analytics-are-to... (Thing is, if anybody here does go and read it, I won't even know.)

At the root of the unease is the question, "Why are you blogging?" If it's something you do for yourself, then analytics -- specifically: who is reading which posts -- is a distraction, and sure to lead you astray into the thickets and quagmire of writing mere clickbait.

If you're writing to establish "thought leadership" in some sphere, then display leadership, not followership (i.e. chasing the analytics.) It's a strange and uncomfortable feeling at first (perhaps always!) but at least you'll always know who you're writing for (yourself). If you're writing for some "payback" then I'd suggest that submitting articles to magazines is a better path/platform than blogging.

Personally I am more interested in inciting thought and discussion through my blog, so mere visitor statistics are of little interest. What would validate what I do there would be someone who reaches out to talk about something I've written. That's the real payback.

[1] Nor any trackers of any sort.

I started my own blog last month and I am following this advice 100%. I'm not using analytics or trackers of any sort, not only for believing they create they same delusion you mention in your post, but also because I try to block all types of trackers when visiting other sites.

Why would I use the very thing I'm trying so hard to avoid when surfing the web? It's basically a matter of respect to the reader. So I designed my site following the values I consider so important for websites in general: no trackers, no mandatory javascript, no obstacles between the user and the content.

Your reason -- respect for your readers, treating them as you wish to be treated yourself -- is the exact reason I started down this road. It took me a while to realise that there was this other, more subtle, benefit, too.

+1 on joining in. Perhaps we can turn it into a movement. ;)

Note that you can’t actually get rid of all knowledge of which blog posts of yours are popular, because you’ll find out in other ways: it’ll be on the front page of Hacker News or people will email you about it, or a friend will link it back to you. If you’re looking for privacy-preserving analytics, this is the ultimate in that. If you want nothing at all…yeah, there’s really no way to run away from the world after you publish something.

I've been steadily plugging away at a semi-regular schedule (I post when I hit a milestone, but that can vary in time itself) on my writing blog. I post all my short stories there, as well as progress on the novel I'm writing. I know no one here really cares about non-tech stuff (I'm a tech guy, but I've sort of gotten more interested in philosophy and writing lately — all I used to care about was tech, so I get it), but shameless plug: https://indifferentuniverse.christopherdumas.org/?m=1.

I've only been doing it for less than a year, so I haven't reached the stuff you're talking about. I haven't even really branched out into talking about general topics yet, but I plan to soon. I'm just slowly feeling my way around, seeing what I can do and what I have time for and whatever. I don't get (m)any views that aren't myself yet though, lol.

The publish or perish nature of blogs is one of the many reasons why I feel they're generally inferior to the personal web pages that were popular during the early web. It seems that there has been a general trend towards a constant churning of output in order to keep up the dopamine hits for users. The quality of a lot of online content reflects this.

Yeah. The antithesis of the blog is the evergreen page, where you collect and systematize information about one thing you're interested in, and keep improving it over the years. A great example is Robin Whittle's page about pink noise algorithms: http://www.firstpr.com.au/dsp/pink-noise/ It covers the topic from more angles than any single blogpost. Then at some point your page can become a collection of pages, like Bill Beaty's electricity stuff: http://amasci.com/miscon/whatis.html I think these are some of the most valuable things on the internet.

I love these types of pages. I know nothing about programming. Can you (or anyone reading this) suggest how I can go about making one? What's the bare minimum I'd need to learn to have essentially a single or a few pages with plain text, links, and photos on it, like the ones you posted? What terms should I search for to learn how to do this?

The bare minimum is to learn some HTML tags (the main ones are <a>, <p>, <img>, <h1>...<h6>), create a plain text file in Notepad and sprinkle it with these tags, save it as index.html, test it in a browser, then put it in a zip archive (along with other pages and images if you want) and upload at https://app.netlify.com/drop

> It seems that there has been a general trend towards a constant churning of output in order to keep up the dopamine hits for users.

my first thought when reading this was "yeah, that's because users don't know how to RSS". it's not that i know how to RSS that well, but i do have friends who use RSS in the style of masters. my favorite strategy that i have heard of, and what i will try to replicate in a few months, is: rss subscription >> local mail service >> inbound mail folders filled with articles from my RSS feed.

i've been practicing my own ability to use "the computer" in a way that makes me feel like a master... and we'll see if i ever get there. surely though, we are all missing out on the oldschool internet that was swallowed by the walled gardens.

but it seems that we're headed for a renaissance

There is a good advice for writers (bloggers are essentially writers) - write only if you can't NOT write. If you write because you can't not write, then you don't care about the number of readers.

Reminds me of this piece by Charles Bukowski: https://poets.org/poem/so-you-want-be-writer

> Then, nothing. You'll check the analytics. Abysmal. Nobody is reading!

Open source software development can be like this as well. Most of my projects ended up being useful to me alone. I started some just to see if some fundamental idea was possible: lost all motivation to actually finish the project once I proved to myself that it was.

I contributed some features to an existing project and they got a lot more attention. Interacting with fellow developers and users is a great experience. Made me care a lot more about the end result and whether it got merged.

Perhaps a personal wiki would be better than a blog. As long as the articles are useful to their writers, they should have enough motivation to keep writing.

Blogs haven't gone anywhere, now they're just "posts" on major platforms.

That's what people chose, because it's easier. They gave up content rights and many, many possibilities for the ease of posting and the near instant views and feedback.

I was thinking about this the other day - trying to come up with an idea for a way to aggregate or recommend blogs to people based on what they'd previously enjoyed or the topics they were interested in. It took me several minutes to realize I was mentally describing Medium to myself.

Still, something doesn't feel quite right about Medium to me.

I missed the Medium boat and just looked into it for the first time maybe 6 months ago.

From a reader’s perspective, the content just seems repetitive and traffic-driven. There is a certain sensationalist slant that must drive views, and the articles rapidly started to feel samey.

I’m still subscribed to it but I doubt I’ll renew.

Can we talk privately about this?

Talk privately about my thoughts on blog sharing and medium? Sure - provide an email address and I'll send you a "Hello".

It's not just the "major platforms."

I have a blog which I've maintained for a long time and continue to publish on. But for a lot of the material I write on a day to day basis, I can publish at online pubs/sites where I have editorial support, an established audience, and promotional machinery. I'm not limited--I can always publish by myself--but for many of the things I write about I might as well choose an existing publication.

I have some blogs that played the long game, and I must say the years thing is a fantasy for most that will likely not be realized. Sure it's fine to do like art that could get popular after you die, or you could be found as an unknown amazing author on day..

However things with the publishing and PR industry are such that I think it would be best to get some eyeballs and feedback before you spend years writing hoping to get discovered, much like launching a product or service too late after spending too much time in pre-production.

Sadly I think it's multiple changes in google that killed blogs over the years and I don't see blogs coming back into the top search results (or blog link rolls not being penalties that scare people into never using them) and changing things.

I love blogs, and blogging - but I must admit that more success is found by tweeting or even making a meme that is shared. If you can't hope for google to give you results and never know if fbook is going to block your blog, then I don't suggest people put eggs in that basket - unless there is another side reason for doing so, like your posts are auto-added to instagram or something somehow.

Maybe if you're only doing it for fame and fortune and PR and success. But trying to do that without actually having anything interesting to get famous and successful about was always just a con-man's game.

Real blogging is about sharing your thoughts and ideas on whatever niche topic interests you with people who have the same interests, and the conversations that arise out of that. Like the friendships that form from participating in BBSes and forums over the years, the value is in the fun you have and the interesting discussions and bouncing ideas off others' viewpoints. It doesn't need to be a business to be fulfilling.

I have run my blog on joelx.com for 14 years and have thousands of posts. Very few people actually read them, but it's nice to have a history my kids could one day read.

> It looks like this is the author's fourth post and s/he hit a home run with the top post on HN.

Think this is NOT his fourth post. It may be a new front end: Check out the other blogs: http://tttthis.coolstuffinterestingstuffnews.com

What is this bizarre URL?

Their site is http://tttthis.com

I remember it because I sometimes try to find it. I quite liked a post of theirs called "Remember websites" or something to that effect.

I've been blogging on and off for the past few years now (not going to publish the link here in case it is seen as self promotion). Mainly as a way of leaving my life story and thoughts for my family to have something to remember my life when I am no longer around (My dad had some incredible life stories, and I wish we had recorded them in some form before he passed).

I think what is missing now is the rich set of tools around the ecosystem. Posterous was a great service to let you email your thoughts directly to a blog post. I am amazed there was no other competitor that sprung up when they got bought out and shut down by Twitter nearly a decade ago.

I really miss Google Reader, which was where I used to keep a curated list of the top blogs I used to read regularly. Even now, some mornings I wish I could just open my Google Reader home page and check out the latest updates from some of my favourite bloggers.

https://feedly.com/ is a good free alternative. I too miss Reader and my experience with that and Google+ made me extremely wary of Google, I frequently back up my data in case they decide to abandon Google Docs or Google Photos or who knows what else.

I gave my father a journal for the entire family to share, pass around, and make notes in when he turned 50. With the idea if our grandfather had used such a tool how cool it would be.

It’s hard getting the ideas down, but having lived long enough to lost a few email accounts from My childhood, and other such content.

When you want to preserve for future generations I think there’s really something to be said for paper. I think Nassim Taleb had ideas about papers longevity too, the longer a technology had been around the longer it will likely stay around. As in email will likely outside Facebook simply because it’s already been around longer.

Posterous: I just launched https://flipso.com — Does more or less the same.

Is there a sample post that we can see?

https://flipso.com/p/dBrEHmXHXEpWpqdYpn2L [Still rough but you get the idea]

Inoreader is better than Google Reader was.

You might want to check it out.


Google Reader was free. I can't afford 50 usd/yr just to read RSS feeds (yes, there's a free plan, but it's limited and at that point I'd rather stick with RSSOwl or similar -free- tools).

Fair enough. I had the free plan for ages and really only changed to the paid one so they would get something after I'd used it for years.

Edit : Their free tier has 150 RSS subs allowed. So it's pretty reasonably. I have the middle tier for $US 20 a year that sets that to 500 subs.

Also, I have no interest in the company financially, just very pleased that there is a better than Google Reader replacement.

This site is centred on Silicon Valley venture capital culture, self promotion is strictly de rigeur around here :-).

I once wrote up something that interested me at the moment and figured I'll post it on medium so people get to actually read it.

To my surprise, medium doesn't let you publish (write yes, not publish) anything, unless you jump through several obscure loops like "engaging with the platform for a while".

My article wasn't particularly important, so I am not too heartbroken about it. But what this tells me is that there seems to be a lot of demand for publishing posts of different nature.

I feel that rather than blogging, more people should write comments. I’ve never written one blog article, but I’ve written a novel worth of comments over the years. A comment IMO is more pure and true, and is created out of a strong desire to say something, rather than for some other extrinsic motivation.

My problem with blogging is that I can’t just write in a vacuum, I must always write in response to something and when I have something worth responding too I can write more usefully.

You can just blog a comment. Read something that moves your mind longer than the first barfed out comment? Blog it. Write down your thought process, discuss with yourself, do something thoughtful witout the stress of a public discussion.

This is essentially what Daring Fireball [1] is, and it's one of the biggest blogs out there.

[1]: https://daringfireball.net/

One reason I still visit jwz's blog[0]. Comments are usually thought-provoking and creative and sometimes even Brendan Eich shows up.


As someone who writes a lot of comments but also now blogs a bit: blog posts for me are just long, thought out comments; often they’re an amalgamation of comments I might have left, or little bits on a topic that I keep around but have never had a place to write as a comment so I put them all together into one big one and polish it.

I agree with a lot of this. Writing for yourself is the best advice: if you write about things that interest you, maybe people with similar interests will read your blog. Also, your own understanding of the subjects you write about will grow.

I've been blogging for eight years now, and it has been very rewarding. It's great to get readers, and it is great to end up on the front page of Hacker News. But it is also really good to have a blog to point people to when you look for a job.

One thing that is still true is how much work it is to write even a short blog post. It still takes me hours of concentrated work. But I am still doing it, becuase the value outweighs the cost.

More on my blogging here: https://henrikwarne.com/2017/11/26/6-years-of-thoughts-on-pr...

> Then, nothing. You'll check the analytics. Abysmal. Nobody is reading!

> After all, how can you justify more time spent on something that doesn't pay back?

If you think that the value of your writing is measured by the attention it attracts, you are set for a really rough and sad career as a writer.

That is true even for entertainment videos on Youtube. Some people have the delusion it's effortless. PewDiePie said he was for at least 2 years posting videos for ~100 followers and a regular ~1mil views/video youtuber often spends ~12 hours for editing a 5 minute video.

> It looks like this is the author's fourth post and s/he hit a home run with the top post on HN.

> But that's rarely how things work.

Totally agree. I've written a fair bit about blogging, but when I started a new blog aimed at helping new developers, for the first month I wrote more posts than I had visitors (!): https://letterstoanewdeveloper.com/2019/10/14/how-to-start-b...

I think that six months is enough time to commit. At the end of that period you'll either have the bug and want to keep blogging or know the format is not for you.

I honestly got a lot more traffic on my blogs than I thought. Mostly from Google. Writing clear answers to things I’ve ran into during my daily work seems to work pretty well

Exactly. As a 20 years blogger, I would say I wish people posted more blog posts than shitty tuits. But Twitter format made possible distribute the message better than the blogs. Back then, we used RSS aggregators and other things, nowadays its kinda rare. I still visit blogs and i still post on my own blog, though i do it everytime i need to do a longer explanation post.

Lmao.. Literally the only time I've gotten a flood of emails was from when I described my experience applying to a FAANG company. Quite sad actually, as I'd been shouting into the void about far more interesting things for years.

You really don’t get to pick, sadly.

The way to immortality is to write.

YES! I will forever be a third-rate Game Boy enthusiast writer. FOREVER !

Thanks for the wonderfully insightful comment. I need to save this so I can periodically look at it for motivation!

this is true, though with the assumption of blogging as it is in today's world where it is lonely and only a search engine can find you. if blogging was done inside a supportive community and network it could be less lonely and you could get frequent feedback and interactions.

If I was to make an analogy using your perspective on blogging with facebook or instagram - you post about yourself or post personal photos for a long time. It is futile, for a long long time, nobody sees your content... you post photos for years, and you realize it changes you. You will notice patterns, you will get better at posting photos ...

I am exaggerating to make a point and it is this, you may find yourself needing to perfect your content strategy(blog, photos or facebook-style posts) for years and the main reason it doesn't pay back is there is no network or community anymore. You shouldn't have to be a pro to get noticed.

People tried decentralized networks and that didn't work so well, because one - you need modern blogging software (newsfeed, real time comments, spam moderation, good recommendation algorithms) and it has to be managed by a centralized authority that offers a great user experience. Today, closest thing to this is facebook and twitter (and instagram). All in all you must have these for a great blogging experience: first, good software and central authority, then network. It must be focused on serving authentic bloggers, and it must be backed by a commercial solution.

That in turn means, a paid service, whose customers are bloggers. That means, how badly do you want an amazing blogging experience, where you blog with great writing tools, search, discover, and interact with others (and probably in today's world, be able to hop on a video chat with your viewers and share that in comments). Yes, so how much do you desire to have it, would you pay $5/month? $30/month? $100/month? It comes down to this.

If there was monetary backing, this problem could be solved with a 'solution'. Chances are that not enough many people want it, and people are content with free posting on instagram, twitter, or facebook, and happy to live with ads. If this was a high demand service, chances are that it would have already been built, or existing ones would already be prospering (tumblr didn't make money and got acquired, blogger shut down, medium serving writers looking to make money, recreational blogging is not their target and so on). So is this a real problem to solve or not?

Maybe people don't know they want it and aren't organized enough to support it, - if you built an amazing experience maybe lots of bloggers will pay for it, then it will become another, facebook where the network is funded by its users.

You appear to be describing Medium in the latter half of your post, which seems to have gone through multiple business models at this point.

As for a network and aggregation, back in the day there were decentralized solutions. We had RSS and pingbacks and Google News, which in the early days was largely a blog search engine. There were things like Reddit and StumbleUpon for finding new blogs, in addition to slashdot and Hacker News. Many of these sites have changed in terms of content since then, but originally a lot of what they linked to was blogs.

Thanks for the comment - Medium is aiming to help writers to monetize (IMO its not working) and not serving recreational bloggers. Yes there were all these mechanisms to find and interact with blogs. But don't you think they can be modernized, and centralized? RSS works, but how many people can use RSS? They just want to press a follow button.

I disagree, I had 100,000 uniques on my third blog post. Of course, there was less Internet in 2005.

Blogs are still there, just not easily findable through Google as most of the ones you find are low-value SEO blogs aiming at search engine traffic.

Discovery is a problem but I just subscribe to blogs when I find them via RSS (Blogs still have RSS, it's hard to find one without which is surprising but I'm glad that's the case), over time I build up my list of blogs I like and they usually link to other blogs and the list slowly grows.

Wrote a tiny bit about my setup on my blog: https://blog.notmyhostna.me/posts/rss-is-luckily-not-dead-ye...

I also recently started a new blog where a friend and me are blogging about annoying things: https://annoying.technology

Blogs and forums stopped being a thing when Google flushed them out sometime between 2009-2012 (with the Panda update? I'm not an SEO guy so I wasn't really following it at the time).

Anyway, it felt like a bunch of places went from having active communities to stagnating or dying outright overnight. People forget just how much general innovation was being driven by these sites - Styleforum and AskAndy for men's fashion, BB.com for health and wellness (ignoring misc), Something Awful also comes to mind.

Reddit was supposed to become the trusted alternative, but it just really hasn't happened.

I’m not sure if the premise is correct here. What metric is Reddit being judged by? What if the various fashion subreddits, in aggregate, have more users, more content (both good and bad), and more innovation than websites like AskAndy?

I suspect what you’re looking for is:

1. The intimate small town feel of the early internet, and

2. The higher average post quality (because of the type of person that both had internet and used forums back then) as measured by intellectuality, domain specificity, and demonstrated expertise.

Reddit doesn’t display those qualities because of the tragedy of the commons phenomenon. Great content is interspersed with what is essentially “noob spam.” Even if it has a greater aggregate amount of quality content, it doesn’t have the same feel as older forums.

Reddit can try to fix this by grouping people together into social clusters. If there is a subreddit with 2 million people, why not create many smaller “breakout” groups that coexist with the main thread? Of course, this is easier said than done, but I’m sure it’s possible to execute this idea well.

I think VR meeting rooms will be the ultimate solution. They will be intimate by definition, and people will sort into their favorite social groups. An American scientist might join an international “scientist salon” and socialize with scientists everywhere from Germany to Japan. A bulletin would contain and display static text posts by the members of the salon. It would also display things like plebiscites and summaries of important meetings. You’d be able to bounce around different groups with a different subject matter any time you want. Some will have barriers to entry and identity verification, most won’t. Some groups will be purely social and defined more by the members than by any subject matter. Altogether that would make the internet feel more like a collection of physical spaces inhabited by communities of people.

What I’m describing ideally shouldn’t be run by one corporation like Facebook or Reddit. The communities should be strung together by a shared backbone under an Internet 3.0. Visiting one should be like visiting a different website. We can use the formation of the original 2D internet as a template for how to proceed in creating a VR internet.

The issue with Reddit is that there's little to no user engagement with older content. Comments on posts older than a day in pretty much every reasonably active subreddit are ignored. This is also an issue on HN.

This kills informed discussion - some topics need more than one or two minutes of thought for a thoughtful and articulated response. This simply isn't possible when you know that the person you're replying to likely won't respond if you take more than a couple of hours to reply, that the conversation thread will be hidden behind a 'read more' button after one or two responses, and that the post itself will be buried shortly thereafter.

The average post quality on most forums was awful, as much or more so than what you see now on Reddit or HN. The difference is that it was possible for informed posts to persist as the center of discussion for years, if needed.

As an example, I don't see how a group of people can become interested and collaboratively participate in something like designing an amplifier circuit on Reddit without moving to a third party site, and in doing so cutting off contact and visibility with potential collaborators who happen to find the discussion a couple of hours too late. That's the level of connectivity and cooperation that was possible through forums and bulletin boards for a bunch of different niche topics, and it's basically been lost now that the 2chan/Digg style format (Reddit) has taken over.

So much this.

For a discussion site, Reddit's a really shitty discussion site. Good conversations rarely even begin, and die rapidly. I've discussed this a few times and places.

On HN: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=16865105

It was a problem I'd identified when first trialing a Reddit-as-blog dynamic:

The Reddit Notifications dynamic is proving to be a very strong negative. Something Google+ got right is to keep re-engaging people with active, productive, posts. Days, weeks, months, even years later. This isn't something you want in _all cases (and can opt out of), but it is often useful, and means that conversations can develop. Reddit, sadly (after some five years or so of trying) is proving to be a Flying Purple Conversation Eater. This is a major site frustration.


That's from 5-6 years ago.

True conversation is fragile, rare, and scales poorly.

And, as noted in both links, Google+ managed this surprisingly well.

This is super awful when you’re trying to have a potentially controversial discussion with someone. Even if both of you are interested in the discussion it gets to a point where why bother continuing because no one is going to see it when they have to click “load more comments” and follow the thread for hours or days. Forums like Reddit and HN actively encourage short pithy sound bites that sound interesting but are actually shallow so they’re easy to write and easy to consume and also uncontroversial so your comment(and the following discussion) isn’t hidden after one or two downvotes.

Reddit, at least, has an active reply notification system, so while this is rare, at least it's possible to have a conversation, even if it's probably only visible to its participants.

HN's lack of an active reply notification means that, unless you're checking the [threads] link obsessively, replies can easily go unnoticed, so writing here is more performative.

How that intersects with the rest of the site's dynamics, I'm not sure.

Yes, though it operates at the post level only. There's absolutely no indication that a post in which you've already indicated strong interest by participating in it has ongoing discussion. If you've received a reply notification to your comment, my own, immediately adjacent, receives no such notice: the tpost is effectively dead. Visiting a subreddit gives no clues as to recently-active posts.

Mind, inbox replies for any activity on, say, /r/funny or /r/politcs would get old fast. But some indication of 'this thread is still live* would be tremendously useful. Again, from Google+, I (and other) users frequently "lived" in the Notifications pane. I'd customised that through CSSso that it was large and functional enough to do that.

Twitter's TweetDeck and the similar Mastodon web client similarly feature a Notifications pane as a principle feature, and much engagement can be transacted from it. One of Ello's iterations had a similar and incredibly fluid design making following up very lightweight, unfortunately later abandoned.

HN's "Threads" view is ... similar, but crippled (lack of context within the subthread I'm replying to being a constant annoyance). Reddit's notifications suffer similarly.

A lot of people use http://www.hnreplies.com/ for that, it works really well.

I enjoy https://www.hnreplies.com. Perhaps you might too.

You're fortunate to even get to. this stage. In my experience, on both large and small subs, even this very rarely happens.

Part of this is the fault of threaded presentation -- very useful for following a specific subthread, but horrible for seeing where a discussion remains live. HN suffers from this as well. Unless you can alternate flexibly between various threaded vs. flat time-ordered presentations, or even randomly-selected contributions, you're not going to break out of this.

A real challenge is that as conversation, functional scale is low. At least one person, more usually at least 2. I've noticed that panels with more than three participants (live, radio, TV), and usually as host/moderator + two guests, do poorly, often due to the timeslicing problem -- an "airtime hour" is effectively ony 50 minutes, with a Q&A and after introductions, speaking time is often only 20-40 minutes. Divide that among participants, and by the time you're at 4-8 minutes per participant with 5 panelists, fewer still with more. Usually the form devolves to a loosely coupled set of short serial speeches or lectures rather than actual engagement.

With more time -- hours at a symposium, Socratic lectures, a long dinner discussion, an academic seminar -- it might be possible to bump the size up slightly -- there's more time to discuss, or (academic) more focus. But even here the ideal size is 5-15 participants (see for example: https://sites.google.com/site/entelequiafilosofiapratica/aco...).

Text gives the potential for expanding this ... slightly. Maybe about 50 people, possibly double that with an excellent moderator. Yonatan Zunger at Google+ is among the best I've personally witnessed. Sadly the archived conversations at the Internet Archive preserve only a small number of comments.

Group size, intragroup relations (do participants know and respect one another, even where they disagree?), avoiding perils of groupthink (self-selection, unconscious group bias, self-censorship, privilege, cultual mythologies, etc.), and a fair-but-firm moderation, are all critical. And you're still lucky to apprach, let alone exceed, Dunbar's number (about 150).

Last I checked, there were slightly more than 150 people online. This means that there'd have to be on the order of 10^7 individual conversations, minimum, more likely 10^8. FOMO much? Group concesus and information sharing are ... profoundly limited.

HN has, as I understand, has on the order of 10,000 registered users. (A very rough guesstimate.) As of 2013, daily uniques was about 200,000 (see, with interesting discussion of some site-design parameters: https://techcrunch.com/2013/05/18/the-evolution-of-hacker-ne...). Looking over the list of just the top 100 users (https://news.ycombinator.com/leaders), I recognise many, a few personally, and shave one, but ... really can't say I've got a relationship with the vast majority. And that's ~0.01% of registered users, 0.0005% of daily visitors.

And just to note: I'm agreeing with your comments. I just see them as the tip of the iceberg and part of a problem that goes far deeper than mere technical aspects.

> The issue with Reddit is that there's little to no user engagement with older content. Comments on posts older than a day in pretty much every reasonably active subreddit are ignored. This is also an issue on HN.

This is even worse with communities using live chat platforms like Discord and IRC. Live chat is an atrocious medium for community building as you constantly have to be involved to keep up or if you just check it for 5 mins you don't actually get anything if there is no conversation at the moment or the conversation isn't interesting.

You're definitely right, although a day of reply-time is pretty good by internet standards. Back when I used Facebook, I noticed that the only way for a comment to get noticed was if it was added in the first 10 - 20 minutes of a post's lifetime. Once an hour has elapsed, anything you write will probably be never seen by anyone. This is the big problem with online communication; it's reduced everything to small tidbits that nobody has time to have nuanced discussions about. You've got to be quick and to the point, or you're out.

> This is also an issue on HN.

HN intentionally makes it worse by forcing you to choose between only starting new conversations (or participating in currently-live existing conversations), or obsessively checking all your posts for replies.

With modern forums the flow of discussion is different. If you have something for a dated discussion, you just open a new thread. Here on HN you often see those indirect responses happening.

Reddit on the other side used to have a better response-interface. You get a message for new responses and can discuss things over weeks and months if it just happen so. New redfit-interface killed yhis a bit.

Forums were crap for that, too. If you commented on an ancient thread, a moderator might flame you at best, ban you at worst, for necroposting. Most forums were ran like North Korea and people just dealt with it, heatedly defended the absolute authoritarianism even.

That was an issue with certain moderators, though, not an issue inherent to the platform. A good forum allowed for good discussion.

> Reddit doesn’t display those qualities because of the tragedy of the commons phenomenon.

I find Reddit is still one of my favorite resources to search for help. If I need help on how to do some home DIY thing or help on making a particular decision, I'll Google for "how to decide blah Reddit" and I'll get much, much better signal than just Googling for "how to decide blah". In the latter case I'll get a bunch of ad-filled garbage and an article that was probably written by an algorithm.

Reddit is great when the original poster or one or two of the immediate replies are insightful and informative. It's awful when either the original post isn't that great to begin with, or if a knowledgeable comment comes too late or happens to be a reply of a reply of a reply.

Case in point, my original post, which was one of the first ten-fifteen comments, has a bunch of up votes. There's no way this would be true if I missed the original post by an hour or if it was the n'th response in a large comment chain.

Stack Exchange is even better, for sites with sufficiently large communities. Stack Overflow and Ask Different are amazing.

But low-traffic SE sites just don't compete. I wish SE would change their account system and/or design so that their smaller sites became a better resource.

How would you recommend they change it to help low-traffic stack exchanges?

I edit and improve hundreds of posts on Stack Overflow.

I want to edit posts on SuperUser too... but SE won't let me. Despite having enough rep for complete trust on SO, I'm a bit short of 2000 on Super User.

If I try to edit a post, it goes into a queue for review by high-rep SU users. But there aren't enough of those, because the site is lower-traffic. So it takes hours to review. High-rep SO users, of which there are MANY, cannot contribute to this queue.

The questions and answers and culture between Stack Overflow, Super User, Ask Different, and their other "tech" sites are essentially exactly the same. There's no reason I couldn't contribute to any of those sites. But their multiple account system makes it impossible.

> The higher average post quality (because of the type of person that both had internet and used forums back then) as measured by intellectuality, domain specificity, and demonstrated expertise.

But this should be easy to get back in the same way blogs always did -- have individual blogs. Even if there are now a million blogs full of "noob spam" the good ones should still exist because their authors are the same people they ever were.

You still have the discovery problem, but that's kind of the OP's point -- it all falls apart if you can no longer separate the wheat from the chaff because of SEO and anti-SEO.

While the discoverability issue may have accelerated the decline of blogs, I suspect that it’s not the main problem. It takes more cognitive overhead to follow and visit multiple blogs as opposed to following multiple subreddits. Even if you are willing to expend that cognitive overhead, most people aren’t nowadays. Because of that, bloggers are less likely to publish (smaller audience + less engagement = smaller incentive to publish). That lowers the average quality of blogs, turning away even their most ardent advocates.

This was all inevitable. The mere existence of a popular meta-forum attenuates traditional blogs and forums.

> Even if you are willing to expend that cognitive overhead, most people aren’t nowadays.

Shouldn't this cancel out against there being more people though? If people are 90% less likely to want to read long blog posts but there are ten times more people on the internet, you should still have about the same number of readers, all else equal.

> Because of that, bloggers are less likely to publish (smaller audience + less engagement = smaller incentive to publish). That lowers the average quality of blogs, turning away even their most ardent advocates.

This conclusion may be right but it's also explained by the discoverability problem. If people can't find you then your audience is too small and you give up.

> This was all inevitable. The mere existence of a popular meta-forum attenuates traditional blogs and forums.

Blogs and forums are completely different things.





Reddit has its uses but it is not a substitute for these.

> cognitive overhead to follow and visit multiple blogs

Didn't used to be an issue really. Then Google killed off Reader and nothing filled the void fast enough.

> It takes more cognitive overhead to follow and visit multiple blogs as opposed to following multiple subreddits.

This is the problem solved by RSS.

Not to mention after a certain number of 'followed' subreddits, Reddit will actually only show you a subset each day on your front page. It allows for smaller subreddits to bubble up occasionally, but you're never guaranteed to see the latest from everything you've subscribed to.

1) there is no real "tragedy of the commons" in the general case. Google Elinor Ostrum to verify. Even Garret Hardin (originator of the concept) has conceded this, at least in part. The crux is that the "commons" as described by Hardin has essentially never existed in the form that he wrote about - things that are "commons"-like are actually always a complex mixture of law, tradition, culture and social sanctions governing their use. When people screw up "the commons", it's not because there are no mechanisms to prevent it, it is because these people have chosen to ignore them, and have made extra effort to do so.

2) You're seriously claiming that Reddit, a privately held company with sysadmins, subreddit moderation and user voting, could be a venue in which what happens is "a tragedy of the commons" (should such a thing actually exist)?

Reddit is privately held but has quite of an impact on the public. Facebook is the same, as are other notable walled garden/social networks. There’s a term for that: utility company.

Does that change the possibility of such a "venue" being the context for a "tragedy of the commons", should such a thing ever exist?

Most HN comment ever. I don’t care about noob spam or even know what that could possibly be. It just isn’t fun and weirdly addictive in a bad way.

This is exactly right. I had a blog for many months, shared it from my website and social media accounts, and it never showed up in Google search. After a couple months of speaking to an audience of 20 people, I decided it wasn't worth it. Meanwhile everything else I have tried shows up on the first page of results: Facebook page, Twitter account, Soundcloud, etc.

Google heavily biases their results to two things: the top 1000 sites on the internet, and clickbait (callout posts and threads slandering someone rank like you wouldn't believe; no backlinks required). Maybe if you keep at your blog for 2+ years, manage to land a few HN frontpage story links, it might eventually show up. But who is going to invest that time and effort instead of just setting up a Facebook page instead?

> After a couple months of speaking to an audience of 20 people, I decided it wasn't worth it

Your reasons were wrong. Blogs, the old blogs and hobby websitrs the OP is talking about were made for fun, not for followers.

I've been thinking. It might be an interesting experiment to build an "average" search engine. Put average websites first. Drop down websites that get too popular.

I think Reddit getting big also killed a lot of the old forums. The frictionlessness of joining a community made it hard to compete. And the general lack of personality to user profiles in Reddit avoided the "cool kid's clique" issue that happens with a lot of forums where everyone knows each other.

I remember in the "dying days" of some of the forums I was on the conversation had largely devolved into reposting and discussing memes and things that were happening on Reddit. From there it's just a matter of time before the discussion moved to Reddit too. This fate perhaps could have been avoided if "Sign in with Google" type capabilities were more widely available at the time, or if we had a more universal login/forum scheme like Disqus back then, but they all came around too late.

> I remember in the "dying days" of some of the forums I was on the conversation had largely devolved into reposting and discussing memes and things that were happening on Reddit.

I get the same sad feeling from Sasha Chua's weekly Emacs News these days, where half of the entries are now links to posts on Reddit's r/emacs. You can see the dwindling of any diverse ecosystem for discussion.

Don't discount Instagram killing many of those communities.

So much easier to take a picture on your phone and post it to your Instagram page or story. Better dopamine rush, too, from a bunch of Like/Comment notifications rather than maybe a single forum reply hours later.

Social media in general -- Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, etc. -- have made it easier than a blog to get your thoughts onto the internet, and the extremely social nature of those services and the instant feedback and conversation they encourage (the social part) is very compelling.

Even though the major blog platforms (Movable Type, WordPress, Blogger/Blogspot, etc.) had a social component in the form of comments, the big social media sites -- including Reddit -- took it up quite a few notches. People like the feedback and the conversation. Blogs can be much more of an island. Some like that, too.

Yep. I ran a great little community cycling forum from 2005 - met so many friends (real and virtual) over those years - then about 2011 or 2012 Google just dropped it. Our traffic fell off a cliff - now - the regulars stayed on for quite a while, but without an influx of new members and questions and discussions, things just died out - regular members need the stimulus of new members, even if it can be taxing moderating etc... Was actually a really disappointing decline in many ways. It really opened my eyes up to how much control we gave away, and how much content is now in these big walled garden silos. I can't help but get nostalgic.

I characterize Reddit as true neutral. It has the potential to be any alignment, but it's mostly the will of the moderator to impose what alignment any subreddit will be. It's the only place on the Internet that still has the feel occaisionally of the 90s/00s.

Reddit is a waste of time with its "answers locked after 6 months" policy. This also violates netiquette for those situations when necroposting is the appropriate thing to do.

Reddit is almost unreadable now, though. You have to click and click and click to expand things, and be careful not to click on the wrong thing which will take you to a different topic.

I much, much, much prefer Reddit when it was more like HN, back when HN was modelled after Reddit & Digg. Today, any time I see a Reddit link, I exit immediately after I've gotten whatever information I require - and even that is rare.

old.reddit.com still works.

I’ve installed a browser extension to always redirect to old reddit. That helps a bit. Hope they keep it around.

i.reddit.com is old and mobile friendly

Surely that is/was reddit's promise, but it does not live up to it.

I think where it breaks down is when you have to run plugins that identify the kind of person a user is. I find that reduces the crapiness of the interactions if I can see someone is a POS without investing much time in finding that out. It's a step that shouldn't be necessary, but the faster that can be discerned the less I find myself second guessing their intent.

Actually that sound even more toxic...

You could say that the current karma system is sort of supposed to be that, but at least it does not affect comments visibility as far as I know.

Having a parallel unofficial social credit system looks like one thing that would just create unnecessary conflicts in communities that do not have a strong troll problem.

One forum that seems to have bucked many trends is for music software: kvraudio.com[0]

Started about 20 years ago, It’s totally vibrant, despite an old school UI. Some threads keep going for years.

Sure, the signal to noise ratio isn’t always perfect either, but there’s still a continuing flow of golden nuggets of deeper industry information, helpful howto answers, and thoughtful commentary and feedback around music software.

In some ways it’s a little like HN, but in some ways I find it superior, like baked in notifications and being able to mute those that are too annoying. It probably helps that it’s adjunct to arguably the best music software directory, with imperfect, yet useful taxonomy, and old school advertising that’s highly relevant to the community.

[0] https://www.kvraudio.com/about-kvr

Many thousands (maybe even millions) of still-relevant older posts on my company's forum are simply no longer even indexed by Google. I guess it's a part of the deep web now.

Yep, that seems about right. I have had two forums since 2002, and while they still have a small user base, everybody switched to Facebook and the like. Not sure if I blame Google as much in the case of forums. I have enjoyed seeing notifications in the browser added, as the browser is starting to have similar powers to apps. Of course, Apple is having none of that, as they love apps and the app store sales.

> Blogs and forums stopped being a thing when Google flushed them out sometime between 2009-2012… Reddit was supposed to become the trusted alternative,

Are you suggesting Google had a plan to promote reddit? or what do you mean by "was supposed to"?

Presumably that it was the business plan of Reddit to become the trusted alternative.

RSS is truly a blessing, and it's such a shame that the side effect of Google is to essentially corrupt a vast portion of the internet such that most of the stuff you see and read has the sole purpose of pleasing the search engine, not the reader. That relationship is the wrong way round.

I'm just re-setting up my own blog (to complement a Youtube channel). Without designing one from scratch (with a static site generator or some such), it's quite difficult to get an off the shelf one that isn't bloated as hell though. I should suck it up but design isn't my strong-suit, and I'd rather just get straight to writing and recording.

Whatever you do, just don't use Medium. Ghost or Hugo (With Netlify, https://gohugo.io/hosting-and-deployment/hosting-on-netlify/) are both very low effort solutions and most of them come with themes that don't look too bad from the get go. It's very quick to get something up and running even though it's technically a static site generator.

Those are nerd only solutions. If anything will have mass market appeal and actually catch on with experts that are not nerds, it can't be nerd only.

There’s a lot of non nerd solutions. Ghost, Wordpress, Medium, Blogger, Tumblr are all very easy to Süd- platforms. There’s a variety of free and paid platforms. The existing solutions are not the problems.

I do have a Hugo blog, and I agree that pretty much all static-site generators are too nerdy for most potential users.

WordPress is still around, and I recommend it. It's more "social" than ever in some ways, and the built-in comments are looking better and better as the years go by. (I use Disqus to moderate the comments for more than a dozen blogs in one network, but for an individual blog, I prefer the native WP comments.)

About a year ago I started blogging, and wanted something really simple, flexible and that didn't require any sort of server/database maintenance.

After some reasearch I decided to go with Jekyll + GitHub Pages, forked a theme that seemed Ok and made some style changes, nothing fancy. Must say I'm really happy with my choice.

There's one thing though, I'm writing posts using markdown in an IDE. Don't really consider that a disadvantage though, and I guess most developers would be really fine with that.

Here's the link to the repository in case you'd like to take a look and try it out: https://github.com/TCGV/blog

I just searched for some relatively focused topics I’ve written about years ago, and Google found my blog posts just fine (mostly among the top results). I don’t know how popular those posts are (I don’t use analytics at all and since the blog has been hosted on GitHub Pages since forever ago I don’t even have server logs to analyze) but I do know quite a few were never discussed elsewhere.

I guess it’s hard to find blogs these days when you just type “blog” into the search engine, or search for a keyword that a million people compete on in order to sell you stuff. But if you have actual, say technical questions, you’ll land on interesting blog posts in no time, sometimes not even on the dumpster fire that is Medium, and written by people who aren’t writing merely to bolster their online presence.

SEO is the problem. Most authors figure out at some point that nobody goes to their website. So, they move to different channels (linkedin, facebook, medium, etc.) and at best might cross post to their blog and those channels.

When it comes to reaching people, the odds are stacked against you on your personal website because of multi billion dollar companies optimizing for ad revenue and vastly preferring directing people to ad equipped channels of their choice rather than your website. This is also the real reason Google killed Google Reader: they wanted to capture the ad revenue and instead force content producers to use those. Which is why all news publishers bend over backwards to ensure their news shows up in Google news.

It's that simple. Any click that goes to your website directs the user away from their money making channels. So, they don't. With RSS readers, most of your potential audience will never find you unless they subscribed to your article or it randomly shows up as a link in some channel they follow. Getting lucky on HN helps. But most people don't get that lucky.

So-called influencers basically try to manipulate the odds by doing what they think yields the best results. That's why clickbait exists, why your twitter and facebook feeds are filled with crap, and why it is so hard to find channels that contain curated content. That's also why we all love HN.

In a vein similar to your annoying technology site, you would probably appreciate https://grumpy.website/ One of my favorite blogs of all time.

Grumpy is amazing! We very much enjoy their content and actually got inspired by that site in the first place. Theres a link to them on our About page:


Thanks, that's awesome, just spent 20 minutes reading on there.

But quite frequently as I was trying to read, everything on screen jumped upwards, by a few lines or half a page, apparently because stuff below it was loading. Normally I wouldn't complain, the site has taught me not to put up silently with such things. Don't think I've seen that behaviour before. (Am using latest version of FF)

I'm increasingly running into blogs that sadly don't have RSS, but just today I discovered a cool open source project to generate RSS based on visual scraping: https://politepol.com/en/

I wrote a tool to do something similar a while ago for sites that didn't work with these ready-made tools, it's a bit more effort as you'd have to implemented a custom scraping plugin for the target website: https://github.com/dewey/feedbridge

Google has an unusual situation where search now only needs to be good enough. They are much more focused on the knowledge engine of providing direct answers and the advertising business.

With such a dominant market share, search has certainly lowered in quality

> search has certainly lowered in quality

I would argue that the public internet has lowered in quality, and the lowering quality of search results simply reflects that the information you're looking for often isn't out there.

A good chunk of that is that more and more info is locked into walled gardens (in some App, on Facebook/Instagram/TicTok), but also a lot of what people want to find in todays world just isn't on the internet anymore, except places like the web archive, where Google isn't allowed to venture...

> I would argue that the public internet has lowered in quality, and the lowering quality of search results simply reflects that the information you're looking for often isn't out there.

I think that's not the case: There's a lot more people with more diverse backgrounds, from different locations and cultures online now than it was the case 10 years ago. It's just harder to find the places through a "globalized" search that is mostly aiming at commercial offers. From time to time I stumble upon absolute niche blogs (Example from my feed reader: https://singapore60smusic.blogspot.com) and it reminds me that there's a lot of good resources out there if you find them somehow).

Although a quick search reveals that:


I'd guess the issue is simply people aren't looking for it.

>I would argue that the public internet has lowered in quality, and the lowering quality of search results simply reflects that the information you're looking for often isn't out there.

Isn't think kind of a feedback loop though? Search gets bad, so people don't bother putting useful, relevant, and high effort content since nobody will find it. Thus, search gets worse since there is less useful content to crawl. Thus even more of the content out there starts leaning towards clickbait and SEO rather than thoughtful writing. And so on and so forth.

Use a search engine like Searx[1], and it might give you a different perspective.

[1] https://github.com/asciimoo/searx

Hence Duck Duck Go.

As with TFA, the notion that Google has some death grip on data is premature at best.

Go to Wordpress and start a blog. The fascists have blown up much of the rest of social media.

I find that all Google results are increasingly useless spam. Even searching for programming Q&A is becoming less viable and I end up landing on one of those "you need to upgrade your flash player" phishing sites at least once or twice a week.

The open web has had a great run but it too is being brought to its knees by spam just like every other open platform.

I never realized how bad Google spam could be for technical content until I had to start searching for solution to some Windows issues. Almost without fail, the first page would be littered would spam sites posing as informative answers. Many of them were just duplicating content from official Windows documentation with minor modification. The more sophisticated ones would provide enough real content to entice you into thinking the page had the solution only to reveal you had to sign up to access the full content of the page.

I've never encountered this before when searching for linux or programming topics. In those cases, Google results always include relevant stack overflow postings and links to the appropriate section of documentation.

I'm surprised Google hasn't penalized these spam pages, but I'd imagine there are some perverse incentives to keep them around. Wouldn't surprise me if many of these sites show adds through a Google-owned affiliate program or are in another way tied into Google's ad tech empire.

"Let's throw one away" thought experiment.

You're rebuilding the internet, if not from the ground up, then {UDP,TCP}/IP up.

What do you do in the next internet to try to avoid the spam and SEO problems on this internet?

> What do you do in the next internet to try to avoid the spam and SEO problems on this internet?

Ban (yes, legally) collecting & monetizing most information about users. But do that generally, not just for the Internet. Or at least make holding such data incredibly risky (enormous company-ending fines for leaks or misuse).

No loading third-party domain content in browsers. At all. No images, no scripts. You can link to it. That’s it.

Limit scripting to defining custom sorts for tables, custom regexes for form fields, and... that’s about it. Too easy to spy or do shit without the user’s express permission otherwise.

That should take care of the worst of the bad incentives that have made the web so hostile and shitty.

You are forgetting the other half of the equation. The web must have a first class payment system. Nothing is free; money will be made overtly or covertly. If there is no honest overt method, there will be a dishonest covert method.

Maybe. Most of the best parts of the web are totally free, donationware (wikipedia), or illegal to begin with (library genesis). Ads served 1st party and aimed at a reading demographic, not at individuals, like all ads except junk mail before the web, would be possible regardless.

But yes some kind of payment flow that is just about entirely controlled by the browser—special UI pages cannot mimic, a “you’ll find a way to accept what this form sends you, or you won’t take payments” attitude from the spec—might be OK. I’d have to think it through some more. It’d be easy to screw up in a way that let the Nu Web become overrun with bad incentives and dangerous garbage again (watch the “non-computer-literate”, which is a lot of people and yes that includes the next generation now entering adulthood, not just old folks, try to use the web to accomplish any task at all if you don’t get what I mean by “dangerous”)

>What do you do in the next internet to try to avoid the spam and SEO problems on this internet?

Ads blocked by default on all browsers. The original sin with a lot of these comes from the fact that incentives drive towards maximizing clicks over building a subscriber base. Ads themselves aren't really the problem either. Magazine style ads, where you just buy space on the strength of a subscriber/distribution reach rather than paying per click, wouldn't be perfect but they'd align incentives between readers and writers much better than the current situation does.

The core problem is that the metrics are too granular, so there's too much room to game them at the margins.

Not sure you need a whole new internet. Maybe a search engine aggressively excluding commercial results. Even blogs with ads. Anything with ads or selling something would not be listed.

Ban advertising. Users could pay for the websites they use by proportion of time spent per billing cycle for their internet plan. Popular sites with more demanding server requirements would be paid for by the very users who induce that demand directly, rather than through more dubious advertising.

Would this actually remove the incentive for spam and SEO?

Nothing, we’re just all gonna have to learn to deal with each other this way on this scale and move on.

Overall this is the best big picture answer

I think Urbit is trying to do this: https://medium.com/@noahruderman/review-of-urbit-e7cc4c35f14...

Mostly by putting some cost to having an ID in the network.

Imho, try to keep it from going mainstream. If there aren't enough viewers to make advertising profitable, then many of the problems filling the current internet would not appear in the first place.

Gatekeeping then?

Not gatekeeping, I phrased my idea badly before, and I'm sorry about that. I would like to make it clear that I feel very strongly against gatekeeping, and against censorship.

More like not pushing for more acceptance. Allow a community to form, but do not try to market your way into a larger community.

Obviously this approach is not sustainable, at least on the first try, as the Internet itself shows.

However, now that the internet already exists, a parallel internet so to speak would not have as much/any appeal to the average consumer/corporation, which ideally would lead to only those who are interested in the community/content arriving there.

How is that different from subreddits - Or communities like HN? Those aren't technical decisions, but social ones, so why do we need a new internet to implement them?

We don't necessarily need a new internet. However, it could provide another line of "defense" against corporate interests.

If the only barrier to joining is a technical one, than anyone who wanted to could join, but the majority of people would not have interest in joining. Ideally, this would prevent AdTech from taking an interest.

As for the fact that these are primarily social issues, I agree. A social solution is going to be much longer lasting and effective then any technical solution. However, it is also much more difficult to implement.

Either that, or have separate webs for different disciplines (maybe one for academia, one for arts, one for jounralism, one for programming, etc.) that are kept separate from each other. I'm not sure how it could be implemented, but a forced partitioning like that could probably serve the same purpose without gatekeeping (if the partitions are small enough).

No. I get spam for predatory academic journals every day.

Sounds like filter bubbles to me.

web of trust for everything

I don't think it's a coincidence that Google prioritizes content that has people staring at more ads for longer periods of time.

I've been collecting blogs I'm interested in via. HN, lobste.rs, reddit, or just random links all around, and am now at around 50 feeds, all of which at least have once had content that I'm genuinely interested in. Then I use `newsboat` for reading and keeping track of what I've seen.

Overall I'm very happy with this extremely simple setup, and am almost annoyed that I didn't spend those few seconds it is to set something like this up years ago.


As to the original link posted, blogs obviously never went anywhere, but they aren't (anymore) in the places that you are. I feel this comes close to the frustration some people have that "nobody is reading books anymore because everyone are streaming movies and series instead". Books never went anywhere, and they're probably more accessible than ever. If you're not reading books now, that's on you.

Similarly with blogs: if you're not reading and/or following blogs, it's just because you don't want to.

From my (subjective) perspective, I also feel like something strange happened with Google search when it comes to blogs.

My tech/programming blog has 1.4K subscribers and used to reliably get between 100 to 200 views per day, then in the space of 2 days from 6 March to 7 March this year it suddenly dropped down to around 10 to 20 views per day. The drop was extremely sudden and hasn't recovered since. Nothing changed on my side; I just started publishing more blockchain articles (since I work in that industry) but the drop badly affected my non-blockchain articles too (especially the ones which used to get a lot of recurring visitors from Google).

I wasn't relying on my blog financially though (just a hobby) so it hasn't hurt me too bad.

Here is my blog: https://medium.com/@jonathangrosdubois

Many of my past articles were related to my open source project (I've been maintaining it for many years and it is not blockchain related): https://socketcluster.io/

I feel that Google has always been working against open source software when it comes to search; maybe because their algorithm figured out that Google can't monetize open source projects (OSS projects don't tend to promote on Adwords). They tend to drive organic traffic mostly to paid SaaS solutions instead.

Strangely enough though, my open source project is now getting starred at a higher rate than ever before, it has almost 6K stars on GitHub and seems to be consistently getting several per week now even though I do no marketing and my Google organic traffic is terrible - The faster rate of stars is also strange because Google Analytics shows me flat traffic (has been around the same number of daily users for the past couple of years).

IMO could be just coincidence. As humans we see patterns that don't exist.

I have an entire setup for crawling rss hourly


Is this your site? It's really nice! I have something similar (although without all of the features on this site). I also scrape a bunch of blogs that doesn't have rss.

One thing, people really like https, especially when sending form data such as the signup.

Thanks, I'm dogfooding it mostly. But I added https :) ( https://handlr.sapico.me )

I'm currently the only one that can add RSS-feeds though.

It has custom actions also, eg. https://handlr.sapico.me/Item/Details?id=ab43c38d-3d96-ea11-... where comments by HN are loaded in the post.

( Custom tag that adds a form field to input the HN Id )

Eg. CommentsByHackernews is the tag.

I also have a variation for the city were I live in ( Bruges / Belgium )


Nice! Here is mine: https://hxfd.prog.re/

It's just a static page that gets rendered on the server after each scraping round (every half hour).

No bookmarks of your own?

Eg. check http://handlr.sapico.me/Item/Create on top right (The bookmarklet).

On mobile ( Android), I share websites to Tasker that then open handlr.sapico.me/Item/Create?Title=%1&Url=%2

I then add the tags and then create the item. I think it's the only way to easily bookmark websites.

Note: If a url is filled in, but not a title. Then on focus-out the title is fetched from the page and filled in.

Although RSS is an "easy" content crawl feature, i wouldn't be able to miss the "bookmarking" functionality that makes the site more usefull.

Is it supposed to create a bookmark in the browser? I can't see anything happen when I click the Bookmarklet link

You can add it as a bookmark.

When you want to save a page, you then click on the bookmark ( which contains JavaScript)

It will get the information of the current page and execute it ( check the js code behind the bookmarklet)

Ps. HN has this too

Your annoying technology blog reminds of this Jonathan Blow talk where he talked about decreasing quality of software: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pW-SOdj4Kkk

You inspired me to do a project today: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=23208846

There seem to already be such a list: https://github.com/jkup/awesome-personal-blogs

But certainly the more the merrier

Speaking of discoverability, I found the author's writing interesting and wanted to subscribe to new articles. I usually do this by following the author's twitter account. Sadly, the one that he links to does not exist: twitter.com/TTTThiscom

I just want to say that I like your nitmyhostname blog and enjoyed your article on RSS.

Thank you, I'm glad to hear that!

I like your blog! It reminds me of https://littlebigdetails.com/ except it’s the opposite. Bookmarked!

Annoying Technology is one of my favorite recent finds. Just wanted to vouch: Good stuff!

Why is the annoying.technology blog uses so much cpu?

That's the first time I'm hearing that problem, are you sure it's from the site? It's basically just a generated static html site with no JS except a tiny analytics snippet.

For me it's really quick and lightweight.

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