1. 36

  2. 25

    Every time I see one of these posts, I want to link to the relevant XKCD: https://xkcd.com/359/ .

    I mean:

    It’s a bunch of people who learned a new markup language and installed some new fiddly tools and wrote their journals in plain text and taught me what seaweed is edible… why?

    Because it’s fun!

    Will it solve the web’s problems? Nope. Is it “better” – does it allow you to do things you can’t do on the web, or in a better way? Nope. Lots of hobbies, from building model airplanes to cycling, are “worse”, or at least useless in comparison to their “real” counterparts. That’s sort of the point of a hobby though.

    I really don’t get the problem. What’s wrong with having an unproductive hobby? Is it really a problem if someone has a hobby and it’s just a hobby, not a burgeoning idea for a business or a way to solve one of the many, many “real” problems that the web, and the Internet in general, still have? Doesn’t anyone do things just for fun anymore?

    And, more cynically: yes, absolutely, the web still has a ton of problems, many of which are self-inflicted. For all I care, though, “fixing” it is the job of whoever broke it in the first place.

    1. 19

      I think the real tragedy of Gemini is that it’s not really good for anything. It attracts people who think the Web has jumped the shark, but its only advantage is that it’s not the Web.

      Why do I care? Because there are real improvements you can make by not being the Web, and I believe if they are made, it will attract all the same people and more people the post author wants to see.

      The Web still sucks as a document exchange network. There’s still no machine-readable navigation, and will never be, because the Web simply wasn’t designed for it (Gopher was, but it’s quite clunky). We just recently got math typesetting that actually works (thanks to KaTeX maintainers!). Structured documents are still a problem. There are real problems—pretty hard problems. Much harder than inventing protocols and formatting that aren’t really better for anything. But I believe solving them is worthwhile.

      1. 4

        There is machine-readable navigation, or rather, was. Back about 15 years ago, if you have the right extension, any <link rel="..." href="..."> in a page would generate a browser menu to navigate a site. Good luck finding such a browser extension today. I think it’s a combination of not enough people caring, and the tooling non-existent. That doesn’t stop me from using them on my blog.

        1. 2

          I agree with the math typesetting. What is the problem, or rather the missing use case, for machine-readable navigation and structure?

          1. 4

            It’s important for accessibility tooling, like screen readers.

            1. 1

              It could also allow site authors just throw documents into the site, without manually creating navigation, or learning a tool that can generate it (SSG or CMS).

        2. 13

          …ultimately the geminiverse is lovely because it is underpopulated, slower-paced, and literate. It is difficult enough to access that those who can use it can be welcoming without worrying its smallness will be compromised.

          Kinda like lobste.rs compared to Reddit or HN? Speaking of someone who used to browse both fairly regularly and now almost never does because it’s, you know, not very pleasant or fun.

          1. 4

            Note that the Reputation Problem applies. The Reputation Problem is a specialization of Conway’s Law; the way that services assign karmic resources to users will incentivize users to behave in certain ways. Lobsters is invitation-only, and that changes our incentives for behavior compared to HN; we wager not just karma on every post, but also potential permanent removal from a community.

            The difference between this and Gemini compared to HTTP is that Gemini is open to anybody who can set up a server, which could eventually lead to a massive influx of users and content into the Gemini ecosystem. Lobsters cannot have such an influx, because of its reputation structure.

            1. 3

              Gemini is open to anybody who can set up a server

              Isn’t that also true for HTTP?

              1. 2

                Yes, but Gemini needs to be 10x better than HTTP to be worth it, and the problem is that it’s not,

                1. 1

                  You’re entirely correct. I did not use enough words and was ambiguous. I mean that the difference between the analogy between Lobsters compared to HN, and Gemini compared to HTTP, is that HN, Gemini, and HTTP are all open to anybody who wants to participate, while Lobsters is invitational.

                  1. 1

                    Thanks for expanding, I agree.

            2. 4

              I think the tragedy of the Eternal September is a function of human socialisation crashing into the seawall of large scale communication technology.

              If you think about a local pub or coffee house, there are limits on attendance that tend to be driven by proximity first and foremost, followed by acceptance of whatever aesthetic and facilities the establishment has chosen as a focus; e.g., loud music, sports on TVs, quiet with board games, etc. The size of the crowd is limited by the available space. Patrons that are bothering everybody tend to be ejected by the proprietor. If a pub becomes too popular, it can be overwhelmed to the extent that it can be hard to be a regular because there are no longer reliable seats available.

              Online environments like Twitter and Facebook often have no such limits. Whether you say something particularly funny or especially untoward, it may be seen by millions of people. Even if just a tiny fraction of global users respond or interact with you, it can quickly become catastrophic. It’s not possible to know everybody or even an appreciable factor of users with whom you interact. This is in practice quite unlike the pub.

              Environments where attendance is constrained in some way, like Usenet once was through a high bar of technical complexity, and like the pub is through physical proximity, strike me as being a more recognisable human social experience. This is necessarily exclusive, but increasingly the challenge of moderation and safety and maintaining positive interactions in gigantic online social networks seems difficult or insoluble. Maybe more things should be like a coffee house rather than like Twitter, and maybe that isn’t actually a tragedy.

              1. 1

                Very interesting point. Something on this vein is the100.io . They limit the number of group members to increment the quality of the interactions. I’d be really curious to hear some feedback from their creative team. In my little anecdotal experience it has been much better.

              2. [Comment removed by author]

                1. 3

                  There’s nothing wrong with saying “the price of admission to this niche little space is knowing how to set up a gemini server, or at least ftp’ing into solderpunk’s free server.”

                  I think the author’s point is that one should be honest about who gets shut out by that standard. It’s not only the uneducated and incapable, unless you also subscribe to an extremely narrow view of education and ability.

                  For example, I quite enjoy the blog A Collection of Unmitigated Pedantry. The author is a professional historian who writes knowledgeably and entertainingly about the ancient world and how it gets misrepresented in pop culture. I’ll bet you dollars to donuts that he has no interest in running a gemlog.

                2. 2

                  As I wrote on twitter recently:

                  It is heartbreaking to think back at how much better the Internet was before social media…

                  And how much of that betterness was made possible by the exclusion of voices…

                  And how hard some people work to remake their internet the former…

                  Without ever acknowledging the latter.

                  1. -4

                    What is this?

                    1. 4
                      1. 2

                        Not 100% sure on what the this is referring to, but if it is Gemini, here is more info on that: < https://gemini.circumlunar.space/>

                        The tl;dr is that Gemini is a relatively young protocol somewhere in between http and gopher for serving text.