Or: How I miss the old internet.
So I’ve been thinking recently quite a lot about where I stand on the fact that noted person who had money and did okay with it but he’s a wee bit of a numpty Elon Musk has bought my favourite social media site. There are far more interesting takes about what the hell he will do with it (I urge you to read The Verge article on it).
I worry about what he will do to the place. I worry about it’s role as a player in a future Arab-Spring like event. I worry about my friends who – somehow – made it a safe space going forward. I worry that it’ll become a haven of extreme right wing rhetoric it’s been pretty good at stopping. I’m also worrying that he will kill the site, as so far his rhetoric on making back $44bn has been small fries. I do feel with a lot of these systems the only way they make money is by trying everything else (anybody else remember when WordPress.org started selling links?), and $8p/m verification doesn’t seem like it ever will recover the investment. Like a shiny toy, I worry he’ll get bored and abandon it. That’s how it happens in tech, right?
If the latter will come to pass, it’ll be a shame, as it has been one of the more positive social media sites I’ve been on. It was instrumental in phase 2 of my career (back when MancSEO was in it’s infancy, I travelled to their meetup on a random Thursday night in January 2010, and met the wonderful SEO Community that I’m still friends with), but that was when Twitter was a lot smaller, and it was easy to find people to connect with and chat to. The Tweets were shorter, but the conversations were longer.
I miss that.
But then, I miss the old internet. I don’t want to gatekeep people from access to a tool that has started revolutions, but I do feel like the internet was maybe slightly better where we didn’t congregate around singular water coolers, as turns out a large group of people in one place invariably generates some bad apples, and maybe we need to go back into our respective silos.
Sure, we may not get the reach. I doubt this blog post would get the eyeballs on it that if I posted it in a thread on Twitter I would have got, but is that a bad thing? Surely you would want to share your content to the largest eyeballs as quickly as possible, but if we get one or two people who are genuinely interested, rather than those with a passing glance, surely that’s better? A warm lead, as opposed to an ice cold one, to use marketing speak.
Plus, if we have smaller silos, we will probably see more innovation. Social media is a behemoth, and really if the only innovation they can come up with is an easily abusable verification system or a system that has legs with graphics the average third year game development student can knock together (seriously, I wrote a QBasic game in the early 2000s, that had legs), then it probably doesn’t deserve the eyeballs it needs.
But that’s the thing, they need the eyeballs, they need the communities. I miss forums. Forums were a thing, but they went away when we all transferred over to social media. Maybe they should come back, as they were great for conversations surround great topics. I remember sitting for days on the Retro Gamer forums (a forum that only shut recently) discussing retro games. A couple of the members of said forum I class as close friends. Heck even on forums where I didn’t dedicate all my time I have had positive experiences – even now on Facebook I have a couple of people who I befriended on a Blitz Basic coding forum on my friends list. Maybe I want people to have similar positive experiences, that have enriched my life like the years I’ve spent online.
The best conversations with the best people I’ve had recently have occurred on Discord, and it’s the only system since early Twitter that I’ve been happy to meet people off of it. I’m not sure if Mastodon and a decentralised system is really the solution (purely because joining is a bit of a nightmare), but maybe they’re on to something with a decentralised system.
Maybe as well as having a decentralised system, we need to decentralise the users as well.