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    The article doesn’t refute any of the arguments in the blog it’s responding to. Yet it has a point - Gemini seems to have taken off as a subculture.

    People rally around this protocol as a backlash against the complexity of the web, even though a non-complex website can be made with HTTP and HTML, and it can be read on low-powered computers with oldschool browsers like lynx or slightly more modern links, dillo or netsurf. Gemini is not about any of the technical features (or even the anti-features, if you will) but more about the emotion and ethos surrounding it.

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      It’s simpler than that: Gemini is about having fun!

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        Gemini is not about any of the technical features (or even the anti-features, if you will) but more about the emotion and ethos surrounding it.

        Gemini is an NFT.

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          I can’t really see the similarity myself.

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            It’s a technical solution to a social problem with a committed bunch of supporters who are Extremely Online.

            Thankfully there is no money involved however.

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          It does address the charge of exclusionism. I would even respond to that charge in stronger terms: if you require every new project to be 100% inclusive from day 1, you’re a useful idiot for rich monopolists who have large departments devoted to marketing how inclusive and accessible they are[1].

          Reading pages on Gemini requires installing a program. We all used to do this, back in the day! It blows my mind that this is considered exclusionist.

          [1] Except they’re not really if you actually focus on the details. Why the fuck is the author of that other blog post not complaining about how exclusionist Twitter is? They can’t render 280 fucking characters without Javascript.

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            Reading pages on Gemini requires installing a program. We all used to do this, back in the day! It blows my mind that this is considered exclusionist.

            People install apps on their phones and laptops all the time (lol you should see my “Messenger” app group.) Gemini isn’t exclusionist for asking for an app install, it’s exclusionary for being mostly text based, for emphasizing keyboard navigation, and for eschewing accessibility for minimalism. If I were ever interested in sharing math on Gemini it would be pretty much impossible; there’s no way to represent the markup. In theory you can share other formats, like HTML or images, but in practice the community strongly wants to stick to text/gemini.

            There’s also a decent amount of purity politics. See https://github.com/makeworld-the-better-one/amfora/issues/199 for example. It’s a set of cultural values that wants to exclude and circumscribe by default. There’s nothing wrong with this, but it makes the community by definition exclusionary.

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              There’s also a decent amount of purity politics. See https://github.com/makeworld-the-better-one/amfora/issues/199 for example.

              I’ve been intrigued by the idea behind Gemini for awhile now (and Gopher before that) but reading through that conversation just made me absolutely certain that I never want anything to do with Gemini. To be fair, I now also doubt that they would want me involved in their community either :-)

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                I mean, it’s mainly just Drew Devault who’s the issue in that exchange. If it makes you feel any better, he’s already been banned from Lobsters :)

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                  I haven’t been here for a few months so this is news to me. Whoah.

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                  That github issue made me so angry that I added a gemini title grabber to my IRC bot that would also fetch the favicon.txt file, just to spite that asshole.

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                  Yeah, that’s totally valid. “Accessible” is a more precise keyword here than “inclusive” that isn’t talked about in either OP or the post it’s responding to. It’s true that plain text isn’t accessible.

                  I’ve been agonizing about this because my project is terminal-based. I’d characterize my current position as very/genuinely reluctantly excluding some people. I’d love to brainstorm ways to get around it with an accessibility expert.

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                    I’d love to brainstorm ways to get around it with an accessibility expert.

                    Yeah it’s something I’m a bit sensitive to because I have some really bad RSI issues. Personally, I’ve always learned much better with text than drawings (since I was a child), and when I found text interfaces on computers, I found them much easier to navigate around than graphical interfaces. Unfortunately I had a sports injury when I was young in my wrist, and years of coding have now made my RSI pretty bad. There are days when I get by with using only my left hand on an ambidextrous trackball. Those days using the terminal is a gigantic chore and I feel super bummed when I read the fashionable online TUI maximalism in tech spaces. And I’m relatively lucky and privileged, I wasn’t even born with an actual disability. I can only imagine what it’s like for folks with other accessibility issues.

                    I recall in the ’90s (though I may be conflating trends, so this might be more of a haphazard connection than a true connection) a desire to have the Web contain text and rich media to accommodate the information acquisition style most beneficial to the reader/viewer. By ideologically sticking to text the way Gemini does, I see Gemini making a strong statement that Geminauts should learn a certain way and that other types of learners (say graphical or aural learners) are not really considered. The Web as an open, welcoming technology then feels very different than the closed, specific community of Gemini.

                    That said, as a personal project, you can’t “fix the world”. Focusing on a niche is fine IMO. We all have finite time in our lives and we do what we can with our time.

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                      other types of learners (say graphical or aural learners

                      Just as a side note here: the idea that people have a “learning style” and one person will learn best with audio vs another best with visuals, has been widely refuted.

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                        Want to +1 your comment. I’m aware but I didn’t add that into my post and I don’t want folks to think that my statement is a statement on the pedagogy at large on education.

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                        Thanks! If you ever get around to trying out my thing, I’d love to hear any advice you have, whether on accessibility or anything else.

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                        There’s a big difference between a terminal-based application for people to explore and ‘the web is for normies and if you don’t join our clique “you’re a useful idiot for rich monopolists”’ – which is a rather exclusionary thing to say.

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                          I don’t actually use Gemini much! I don’t hang out on the mailing list, I don’t know anybody there. If I’m in a clique, it’s a clique of 1.

                          If you require every new project to be 100% inclusive from day 1, you’re a useful idiot for rich monopolists who have large departments devoted to marketing how inclusive and accessible they are

                          I stand by this statement in all particulars. But I’m not sure who I’m excluding from what by saying it.

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                            If you require every new project to be 100% inclusive from day 1, you’re a useful idiot for rich monopolists who have large departments devoted to marketing how inclusive and accessible they are

                            That statement implicitly assumes that projects will later be extended to be more inclusive.

                            The problem is, Gemini seems pretty hostile to any extensions made after day 1, and this seems to be a specific goal of the project. This means if they ever want to include accessibility, it has to be planned in from day 1.

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                              I’m not sure what accessibility it needs to include? It’s trivial to create an audio-only, reading only, braille-only, large print, high contrast, translated to any language, version of any gemini capsule. Lacking support for mathematical notation or music isn’t about accessibility, it’s about content.

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                                Questions I’d have:

                                • How would a screen reader know what language a capsule is? What if you use multiple languages in your capsule?
                                • How does a screen reader know what to parse and what not to (e.g. images)?
                                • Those Figlet ASCII art images are absolute garbage for a screen reader

                                It’s trivial to create an audio-only, reading only, braille-only, large print, high contrast, translated to any language, version of any gemini capsule

                                So it’s been said since the beginning of the protocol but all I’ve seen is TUI clients, an Emacs client, and a handful of GUI clients which are still not thinking about accessibility at all.

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                                  • The MIME type of the resource requested is included in the response, and it’s there where one can include a language tag (it’s even specified for text/gemini). At best, you can set a language per file, but if the document includes multiple languages, you are out of luck. But to be fair, does anyone actually tag foreign language words or phrases in HTML? I know I do (via tags) but I think I might be the only one.
                                  • Images (like gif and jpegs) aren’t displayed inline. Yes, it’s an issue knowing a link is to an image (and what type of image) until it’s requested.
                                  • The spec for text/gemini allow for “alt text” after the pre-formatted block marker, but there is no standard for how it should work, nor what it should contain. There’s been an insane amount of talk about the issue, but rarely (if ever) does someone even bother with a “proof-of-concept” to see how it might look or work (my biggest gripe with the Gemini community—mostly talk, no experimentation because actual working code is hard work and who wants to do that?)

                                  Disclaimer: I wrote the first available Gemini server which helped with identifying the worst bits of the protocol (I did not bother much with text/gemini). I pretty much left the community because of the community, but I still run my Gemini site (gemini://gemini.conman.org/ in case anyone is interested).

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                                    • A screen reader would know the language the same way anyone ever does. Language Detection is a pretty reasonably solved problem, certainly for long-ish passages.
                                    • What images?
                                    • That’s a screen reader problem (actually an ascii art problem), not a protocol accessibility problem. The web is no better at dealing with bad actors.

                                    Feel free to write an Alexa client. It’d be pretty easy. (Like, legitimately so. It actually sounds kind of fun. I might try.)

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                                      Those Figlet ASCII art images are absolute garbage for a screen reader

                                      The standard allows for an optional “alt text” to be attached to preformatted sections.

                                      Edit

                                      How would a screen reader know what language a capsule is? What if you use multiple languages in your capsule?

                                      The server I run (gemserv) has an optional directive indicating the language. I don’t know if it communicates this to the client though.

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                            I’m not familiar with the insider politics of Gemini. Now I’m regretting wading into this. I’d have kept quiet if either blog post said, “the people on the mailing list are rude,” something I’m not qualified or interested to debate.

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                              it’s exclusionary for being mostly text based

                              Like the Amish.

                              If people want to live without electricity, who am I to tell them otherwise?

                              If I were ever interested in sharing math on Gemini it would be pretty much impossible;

                              Yes yes, all your calculus I’m sure is quite good, but there are other things too, and you might say nothing quite captures the beauty of a rose like a picture of a rose, and that music is best heard not talked about, and to say nothing of the medium of games and interactivity, where even being able to see all the code can spoil the ending!

                              We already have something perfectly mediocre at representing all of those things, but we don’t have anything really great at just doing text and links besides Gemini.

                              There’s nothing wrong with this, but it makes the community by definition exclusionary.

                              I disagree wholeheartedly: A meetup for blind people isn’t exclusionary if a sighted person can join. You are so welcome! You’re free to consume or produce whatever content you want, but so are they, and your inability to share your math with me speaks more of your abilities than mine for simply lacking the eyes with which to “read” it.

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                                Like the Amish.

                                The Amish don’t proselytize. In fact I suspect they’d be relieved if the outside world stopped being fascinated by them. This does not describe most Gemini evangelists.

                                We already have something perfectly mediocre at representing all of those things, but we don’t have anything really great at just doing text and links besides Gemini.

                                Well, views differ. I see the lack of semantic content for emphasis as crippling, for text. And I really cannot see any reason for this to be the case apart of the rigid “each line should be parseable as a unit” argument, and “it’s up to the client to decide how to present”.

                                Quoting myself from here:

                                italics and boldface are good, I am still mad

                                You can’t reproduce most prose works without having fugly underscores or asterisks all over. This is defacing our cultural heritage. Asking the user/client to download on the side and using an external reader is a cop-out.

                                It’s increasingly apparent to me that gemtext is well suited for one thing: writing about and discussing gemtext and Gemini. A bargain-basement Sapir-Worf theory, in other words.

                                Gemtext is designed by someone who thought that the pinnacle of human communication is a 1990s Usenet post. Gutenberg and Aldus Manutius wept.

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                                  The Amish don’t proselytize.

                                  I think that depends on what you mean by proselytize; Many Amish vote, and they have Amish lobbyists, and some are even quite mission-oriented in how they talk of their faith (e.g. NOA). Some have certain rules that you have to follow if you want to participate in their community (like for example, visiting an Amish church), and both (to me) seem quite tolerant of the existence of other faiths.

                                  In any event, I don’t follow exactly is it about what Gemini “evangelism” that has anything to do with your inability to express yourself to blind people. To me, it’s like you’re telling people to remove the braille from elevators. Why? If you don’t want to use Gemini? Who is forcing you?

                                  I see the lack of semantic content for emphasis as crippling. … I really cannot see any reason for this.

                                  That’s too bad. Again, why do you care that something exists that isn’t for you? Do you bring your cat to dog-walking clubs as well? A child to the pub? Do you think everyone should like the things you like?

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                                    I dunno man, I’m just here, working on my gemsite, participating on Antenna, hanging out in the #gemini IRC and generally having a good time. I’m sorry I’m not comporting myself befitting a member of the Church of Gemini.

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                              Twitter used to have a nice mobile site. It worked beautifully with text-mode browsers. I used to use it with edbrowse. They killed it in December 2019, a couple weeks after I quit twitter.

                              And then there’s twitter’s crusade against third-party clients. Third-party clients happen to be very popular with the blind.

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                            I think Gemini is defined by what it isn’t rather than what it is (very punk rock), and that’ll be its ultimate downfall. Instead of trying to build something, they worry little nice touches will be the end and become the web again.

                            For a good example of what I mean, this is what I think of when I think of Gemini now - bullying people out of purity. (Or RFC LARP.)

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                              You’ve discovered that Drew Default is a dick. We all knew this. He’s been here. We know.

                              One could argue it’s a public service to provide a client that Drew Default will eventually blacklist. The users will be spared whatever his latest fucking insane windmill charge is. Think of the users.

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                                brave to attack someone in a forum where they cannot respond

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                                  I sure hope Drew has better things to do than to respond to this kind of nonsense

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                                Or as Jawbreaker would have it:

                                “You’re not punk, and I’m telling everyone”

                                Save your breath, I never was one

                                Much like any clique, it’s got its purity tests. That’s a good example you’ve got there.

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                                  It’s a curious perversion of open source development—who has the right to control or limit what other people do in their own software, especially adding features they find useful? One could argue that it’s daft, impractical or morally offensive, and they might be right. You can’t stop people publishing code, which leaves you with a rather primitive set tools—benevolent dictatorship, consensus and coercion—to keep a minimalist project on track. “Nice little touches” were never on the table, and favicons were only one in a litany of attempted extensions. Without continuous backpressure the markup definitely would have reached a level of complexity that browsing from a terminal would be undesirable. Most of the backpressure was achieved by solderpunk writing gently, but ultimately leaning heavily on their authority as the author of the spec to prevent unwanted excursions. Later they reduced their involvement so the availability of tools to keep things on track diminished.

                                  That’s what Gemini is, for better or worse. Purity and ensuring purity is in its DNA. When I look at your link, I see that more as a reflection on the project than the person who wrote it. Even if others wouldn’t have been quite so blunt (or didn’t have the leverage to counter code with code) many were definitely thinking it. There’s a shock factor seeing that kind of thing on a GitHub issue—it would be a crazy demand in most software ecosystems, but in context I didn’t find it surprising.

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                                    Without continuous backpressure the markup definitely would have reached a level of complexity that browsing from a terminal would be undesirable.

                                    Browsing from a terminal isn’t one of the stated goals of the project though. I’m not sure if purity politics were essential for Gemini at the outset, but I do think that users of Gemini are interested in that kind of purity politics because of what Gemini and its purity represents for them.

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                                      Browsing from a terminal isn’t one of the stated goals of the project though

                                      Good point, I misremembered that this was more explicit. However it is a goal of gemtext that it should be usable without any processing of formatting, which amounts to much the same thing.

                                      the text/gemini format has been designed so that simple clients can ignore the more advanced features and still remain very usable.

                                      It is strictly optional for clients to do anything special at all with headings [/list items/blockquotes]

                                      (gemtext format)

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                                        Good point, I misremembered that this was more explicit. However it is a goal of gemtext that it should be usable without any processing of formatting, which amounts to much the same thing.

                                        This exact split is reflected at large in the community and in practice ended with the minimalist group winning. For a lot of folks, they saw the goals of Gemini as a way to create a pure part of the Net where they can use their favorite tools (terminal, text editors, etc) to surf around. I contrast this with Usenet which has a much more laissez-faire attitude on what you can post in an article and how a newsreader should format an article.

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                                  Personally I found Gemini too cliquey and exclusive for my tastes. The people and views I found there were very same-y, too much for me. Social aside, the protocol isn’t technically all that interesting. Overall I found more fun to be had in Yggdrasil, NNCP, and Usenet. Usenet in particular reminds me of what a free-for-all the Net can be, in both a good and bad way, but I’m the dive bar sort so that’s fine with me.

                                  There’s also a bit of a Gemini Evangelism Strike Force that I’m starting to see in the tech spaces I frequent, which I’m not a fan of, but so far it’s tolerable.

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                                    To me, it’s pretty simple: Gemini’s protocol and markup make an active effort to prevent me from writing about things I find interesting, like functional programming (that often requires inline mathematical notation) or music (that requires notation and sounds). It also prevents me from creating a good reader experience with bi-directional footnotes, good ToC, at least some typography etc.—things I can do on the WWW.

                                    So I use the WWW, not Gemini.

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                                      any particular usenet newsgroups worth reading still? I have not been on usenet for 15 years or so

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                                        Yeah there are a few, I think Usenet is going through a small revival. Some groups I enjoy:

                                        • comp.sys.raspberry-pi
                                        • rec.woodworking
                                        • comp.lang.forth (they talk about Forth, but the discussion can be quite heated at times)
                                        • alt.fan.cecil-adams (general talk about news/politics)

                                        There’s also the infossystems groups comp.infosystems.gopher and comp.infosystems.gemini. You could also try rec.bicycles.tech if you’re into bicycles and willing to put up with a bunch of older people who are insulting each other incessantly while talking about bike tech.

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                                          Related: how does one read newsgroups now? It looks like major ISPs don’t provide NNTP anymore, and the proliferation of hijacking it to distribute binaries has forced access to be gated by third parties. Since Usenet, when it’s working well, is a better organized series of mailing lists, it seems very strange to pay a monthly fee to read.

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                                            I registered for a free account at https://www.eternal-september.org

                                            No binaries (duh) but otherwise seems to have a full feed otherwise.

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                                              Amazing. NNTP is one of the rare things I actually miss from the 90s.

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                                            comp.infosystems.gemini 💙

                                            But slightly more seriously: I can only find interesting and active Usenet groups on technical topics, while things like music genres have groups which were active and fun 25 years ago, but are dead now.

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                                              I think the few remaining users of usenet (most of it is just spam and binaries now) are ultra-grognards, so not surprised. comp.sys.apple2 is fairly active, but as you say, everyone abandoned the non-technical categories years ago.

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                                            The people and views I found there were very same-y, too much for me.

                                            This is very hurtful. 💔

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                                              Lol shrug I don’t know what to say. I’ve never been the clique type. I avoided tightly-knit social groups throughout my schooling days and I’m thankful now as an adult that there’s less social pressure to be in one of those.

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                                                I have a hard time getting along with a lot of people on Gemini (although I’ve found a handful of gems); being seen as samey (I post a lot there) really stings. I’m my own person.

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                                            Gemini protocol has many constraints. Each of those constraints has been put into place to make a feature more powerful. Lack of cookies helps those who are interested in privacy. No scripting helps those who want documents instead of apps. Simple markup helps those who want to focus on content. You get the gist.

                                            These two make the features I need much less powerful. I mostly write documents, but try to use the features of the web to present content in better and more informative ways. For example, hiding technical details in a dropdown, adding a button to toggle the visibility of advance topics, even just tweaking CSS to make certain things stand out more. If I knew how to make interactive JavaScript simulations a la Bartosz Ciechanowski, I’d absolutely add those too.

                                            I also “want documents” and “to focus on the content”, but I need far more power than Gemini provides to do either.

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                                              On that post, I also mention that depending on your case you’re better served by using the Web. You are using styling and page interaction to make better content, that is what the Web was made for. Gemini is not what you need.

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                                                I can definitely relate to this — that when presenting deep technical topics, you often need very fine control over presentation so that you can be absolutely sure you’re conveying your ideas in the way you intend. For that content, Gemini gets in your way.

                                                I also definitely relate with what you quoted, though! One of the (many) reasons that I write less than I’d like is that I get side-tracked by playing with the layout instead of writing the text. Or editing while writing instead of after writing. One endless yak shave after another. And I have found Gemini genuinely useful for providing guard rails that make it harder to do that. Or at least to delay the yak shaving until I create the HTML equivalent of what I just wrote in Gemini! 😀

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                                                The notion of the “gemini community” feels to me like that one of the desired properties of it is the pioneer spirit of the early web; you are part of a community simply because you are one of the few there to begin with. You can have communities on the web, but it hasn’t been for a long time that being on the web meant you were part of a community.

                                                This way also sets the limit on the life span of such a community spirit: If gemini grows too large the community diffuses.

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                                                  I feel like it says something that, when I clicked through to the post this is responding to, it took me about 5 seconds before I flipped on reader-mode…