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Kistaro Windrider, Reptillian Situation Assessor

Unfortunately, I Really Am That Nerdy

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A conversation on Reddit, discussing Yahoo's troubled history with acquisitions, meandered to notes on the current state of excite.com, which hasn't changed much for the last decade. It's a fascinating relic and, in its way, rather comforting; the late-90s design aesthetic still exists somewhere, and it gives me a platform from which to think about what I miss about the 90's-net. I've had a lot of opportunity to think lately on it, since I'm really not happy about what the Internet is now, and I've been trying to figure out what needs it's no longer meeting for me, how to make it do that again, and how to make it catch on enough that I'm not sitting pointlessly alone screaming into my own little corner of the void.

I've been looking into this more, and I keep finding the same thing: everything I loved is still there, largely as I left it. Which is both a good and a bad thing; I can return to this world I missed whenever I like, but it hardly does me a great deal of good- very little of the traditional Internet is being updated, other than directly commercial sites carefully curated and maintained by a company. The sites that have survived do not have the properties I liked about the traditional Internet. I participate anyway, but perhaps I shouldn't.

What we've lost is our attention spans; what is gone is the long-form Internet, persistent documents of mostly text that may or may not have associated conversation spaces. Of course, when you get to stable essays citing each other in various argumentative ways, it starts to sound a lot like modern blogging, which is closer to what I want, but not the same. I think what I miss is a focus on topics and information, where a web site is arranged around a subject and I can immerse myself in the structured expression of someone's organized idea; a blog is chronological, a news feed that is expected to be as much about personal events as it is about ideas, and it is an inherently temporary, transitory, and time-bound thing.

I guess it's the transitory nature of the modern Internet that upsets me, between blogs and traditional web sites. A web site is an aggregation of information that is primarily connected by subject and concept. A blog is primarily connected by time, and reading back into the archives presents a jumbled mix of ideas of decreasing relevance, since the writing is also generally linked to a moment in time. True, all writing loses relevance with age, and all writing is a product of when it is written, but blogs have a social pressure to be immediate and transitory. I've certainly lost the urge to type up any reasonable amount of my various thoughts on identity and spirituality, because they aren't such a transitory thing, so there's no particular time I "should" post them, and then I never get around to it at all. Eventually, I stop even contemplating matters very much, and that does me no good at all; this desperately transitory culture, treating concepts and ideas as though they were as disposable as so many other things, has reduced my tendency towards philosophy, and that is not particularly to my benefit.

The modern Internet is designed to be distracting. Companies make money when you are active and active on their sites, so the modern Internet is deliberately crafted to draw your attention away from other pieces of it in a constant competition for clicks and pageviews. Settling on a site well-engineered for such things doesn't do you any good; it's not just pulling you away from other sites, it wants to pull you into other areas of itself, to draw as much time and attention as it can, as attention is the currency with which "free" web sites are paid for. The modern Internet is crafted to encourage short attention spans. The Facebookization of the Internet has, in my opinion, significantly reduced the quality of discourse.

But, maybe I'm biased? Perhaps these places still exist, and in the volumes they always did, but my attention was in the wrong place. I keep wanting to go back to old-style forums, places I used to know, and browse the "quiet Old Internet" for a while, but my attention keeps getting drawn back- I'm ignoring people I'd like to talk to, and I worry that anything I say on any other channel will get widely ignored. But, then, why shouldn't it? The small audience sizes of 10 years ago were enough for me then; it is merely the centralization of social channels, the Facebookization of the Internet, that has made me irrationally greedy for more. Irrationally and self-destructively greedy, since I am an introvert; I cannot handle the social pressure I have put upon myself, and at the same time I feel guilty and self-conscious if I fail to keep social pressure at sufficient levels. Facebook's product is insecurity, and despite never maintaining a Facebook account (I had one briefly, but I deleted it), I have bought that product, and I need to let it go.

We need to rebuild the quiet Internet of Ideas, and try to give it some reasonable fraction of the grip and audience that the Internet of Now and People has accumulated. The quality of discourse has suffered, but there is no reason it cannot be brought back once we find the right way to do it. What can bring people back to a quiet and concept-rich mode of communication, instead of this desperate and transitory form?

I've migrated to DreamWidth. The original post is at http://kistaro.dreamwidth.org/487228.html. View comment count unavailable comments at http://kistaro.dreamwidth.org/487228.html#comments; go ahead and use OpenID to post your own, or you can comment here.

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This kind of makes all of the otherkin/therian parts of the modern Internet into something like the old Internet. Some of these essays are also on sites that house collections of essays, so I suppose there are some parts of the Internet still done the old way.

But this kind of document is also a way to take what gets posted on places like LJ and give it a lasting relevance.

Umm, wikis? They have discussion pages, too, though they're not used as much as they should be.

They tend to be used for factual information more than opinion, though. I think wikipedia has influenced them a lot.

That is in part because they tend to be group efforts, and it's hard to get a consistent collective opinion; still, it is quite possible to start one to collect your own thoughts over time.

True. But even if they have some sort of subscription option, I don't think people are in the habit of following blogs. The advantage of blogs and sites like twitter, FA, and DA is the follow option. Static resources don't have a method of getting as many views. And if you did have a subscription option, then you'd still want to pump out content over time and it'd be more like a blog.

I think the follow aspect of content coming to the user rather than the user coming to content might have a lot to do with the changes Kistaro noted. You can still create the same sites as in the 90s, but you won't get the pageviews of other sites that offer subscription models.

There's a bit more to subscription models than that, as well: subscription models put the reader under pressure to view things (which leads to fatigue and attention drawn away from other, unrelated media), and puts the author under pressure to publish regularly (time-bound, rather than content-bound). So subscription models have most of the properties I'm talking about- they are highly available and high-pressure for both producer and consumer.

Yeah - I was trying to say that subscription models deliver that pressure you were talking about where they become like blogs because you feel you need to post regularly over time.

But they also deliver a lot more viewers. Who's going to remember to visit a page without a subscription? Not as many people as if they had a subscription.

Perhaps, also, the vast amount of material available on any subject is what gives time pressure on the reader. There is far more of anything available on the Net than I could possibly consume. Artwork, essays about being otherkin, news about environmental issues - anything. There's more than anyone can keep up with. It's the problem of connecting over a billion people on line. It makes each individual unable to keep up with the consensus even on niche issues and also makes each person superfluous. An individual doesn't really matter at all in a very literal way. If any one person stoppled doing whatever they do, the world wouldn't miss them.

Or gur mrvgtrvfg. Rng lbhe zrzrf. Lbh qb abg unir gur bcgvba bs guvaxvat nobhg gurz frcnengryl. Lbh qb abg unir gvzr, be raretl. Gurl jvyy pbafhzr vg. Ohvyq gur arkg gval cvrpr abj naq va gur jnl rirelbar ryfr unf, be fbzrbar ryfr jvyy qb vg svefg naq gurl jvyy jva. Gur gval cvrprf jvyy tebj gb znxr jungrire gur jvyy bs gur fbpvny argjbex jnagrq. Gung jvyy or gur shgher. Vs lbh ner abg va gur shgher lbh ner va gur cnfg.

Or cneg bs Nyy-Pbafhzvat Uhznavgl be qvr.

Gurer vf ab rfpncr. Gur rssvpvrapl naq fcrrq naq zbzraghz bs gur Terng Oenva bs Cynarg Rnegu jvyy pehfu nyy va vgf cngu. Vs lbh ner va vg, lbh jvyy or tvira wbl. Vs lbh ner nalguvat ryfr, lbh jvyy qvr. Gurer vf ab rfpncr. Vs lbh ner nalguvat ryfr, rirelbar ryfr jvyy dhvrgyl abg cebivqr nal erfbheprf gb lbh. Lbh arrq gurz. Gurl qb abg arrq lbh. Lbh qvr.

[[GET OFF THIS CHANNEL. Prem, fix that egress filter. That's an order.]]

Edited at 2013-05-28 02:12 am (UTC)

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