Midnight Pub

I'm new to the smolnet and having an existential crisis

~calpico

I started browsing the gemini web recently as my introduction to the smolnet.

I've been here a week and I am having a visceral reaction to the www now.

Which is dumb because I am by most measures a total simp for big internet. I make tech money building bloated software for banks and insurance companies. My employer sends me the newest macbook every couple of years. Flashy front end react programming is my jam. I run multiple discord servers and write twitch plugins for fun. A couple years ago my new year's resolution was literally to grow my instagram account. I start poking around on an alternative protocol and suddenly I'm having delusions of grandeur about deleting all my social media and going off the grid? It all seems a little phony don't you think?

Without wasting too much of my day poking fun at myself for being a spineless capitalist, this is a natural reaction I think. As much as I love all of those things (ok, *some* of those things) I also have a laundry list of problems with the current state of the internet and social media, and it seems like the smol internet addresses a lot of these. I certainly get the appeal.

As a child of the 90s I truly miss the days of BBS and livejournal. These were honestly far superior tools of communication and community building than what we have available today. I detest the way that modern social media gamifies communication and the way communication on them is manipulated for the capital gain of a few very rich and powerful CEOs. It is apparent that on facebook, twitter, instagram, etc. we are no longer communicating with each other; it's just a bunch of people talking to the same robot competing over who got the most points back.

I don't mean for this to be an attack on our natural desire for attention and the lengths that people will go for a shred of validation, even if it comes from an algorithm. Attention is a psychological need and I'm certainly not going to sit here and pretend that I'm above that. Rather attention is a vital resource which social media has commoditized, monopolized, and is currently holding hostage for its own gain.

I love that places like geminispace exist to remove all those barriers and allow us to focus on building a community purely for ourselves. But the limited nature of these places is a double edged sword. In its crusade against user hostility, gemini space becomes ironically hostile to non techies. I really can't expect most of my friends to adopt this protocol, or understand what's nice about it. A text-based community like geminispace is also largely incompatible with visual communities centered around art or fashion. Of course it's possible to include jpegs in your capsules, but for communities that are excessively visual you'd be forced to agree it would get tedious.

There are still tons of communities that could stand to benefit from the ideals of geminispace that are still in some way barred entry. Of course, that's not what gemini was built for, and it doesn't *have* to be accessible to every person, but it's obvious that there are still problems that geminispace doesn't address. In a similar way, the broader concept of the "smolnet" (which I'm still learning about) is also by necessity inaccessible to the vast majority. Even regardless of protocol specs or technical bar of entry, a community that aims to limit growth will by definition be mostly undiscovered. As someone with niche hobbies, it can be hard enough to find likeminded friends. The smolnet is fun for some things, but in finding the camaraderie that I crave the WWW is still largely a necessary evil.

I spend a lot of time thinking about this and daydreaming about how to chip away at the power that big companies have over contemporary internet communities. I know that ultimately this is a fruitless endeavor, because I still live in a capitalist society. At the end of the day the richer guy is gonna win, and in this case I can guarantee you Jeffery B. is gonna outbid me every time. I know that the medium internet isn't coming back, and any attempts I personally make will only result in another smolnet at best, but I guess it won't stop me from thinking about it.

All of that being said. Am I currently fantasizing about tossing my laptop out the window, switching to a flip phone, and dropping off the grid entirely? 100%. Am I really going to? Probably not.


tatterdemalion

Welcome to the desert of the real, ~calpico.

I try to think of the web in "render unto Caesar" terms. I need to use the WWW to pay taxes and bills, to do any kind of niche commerce, and in general to participate in a society that I see as irreparable and doomed. I make my living on it (though in the public interest, and avoiding the front-end as much as I can). But I'm not going to spend any of my limited free time and energy contributing to it.

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techwing
A text-based community like geminispace is also largely incompatible with visual communities centered around art or fashion. Of course it's possible to include jpegs in your capsules, but for communities that are excessively visual you'd be forced to agree it would get tedious.

The tedious viewing of images can be solved I believe (although I do not know how difficult it is to include an image on a gemini site). We can just make it so that the gemini client automatically loads pictures whenever it finds a link to a picture and have that displayed in line with text. I believe I saw one gemini client do this but I don't remember which.

I do agree with you that different kinds of communities are lacking through geminispace. I kinda wish that the communities I am in would use something other than huge http websites or Discord servers. I even considered spinning up a VPS (maybe I'm still considering it) and developing a capsule that had all the things I would want to share. However, it does end up falling into a niche within a niche unfortunately and no amount of pushing is going to get my friends to catch on.

I do still appreciate for what we have in the geminispace right now.

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inquiry

We the smoke, the screens the mirrors?

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pink2ds
Attention is a psychological need and I'm certainly not going to sit here and pretend that I'm above that. Rather attention is a vital resource which social media has commoditized, monopolized, and is currently holding hostage for its own gain.

Thist's a great way to put it. Thank you for that.

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starbreaker

As somebody who has a day job in tech making CRUD apps I think you might be overthinking things just a bit. There's absolutely nothing stopping you from dumping your parasocial media accounts and going all in on geminispace if you want. I tried it myself and found it wasn't for me; I'm spoiled by the ease of use web-hosting companies like Dreamhost and NearlyFreeSpeech.net offer for DIY websites; so I use Emacs Org Mode as my SSG and push to my host with a makefile and rsync.

But whether you do a small website or a gemini capsule as long as you have an Atom feed you can still participate in webrings and aggregators like Nightfall City. As for chucking out your laptop; I just spent the evening jotting down notes for a new novel in a fancy notebook with a fountain pen. The only way I could get more barebones would be with a pack of disposable ballpoints and a stack of marble composition books from Costco. The corporate-friendly internet sucks.

It's spyware as far as the eye can see. None of us can fix it. But exit is always a legitimate option. Let the normies have the corporate-friendly web. We'll make as many smolnets as we need.

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eaplmx

Well, as a child in the 90s (In MX), visiting cybercaf├ęs and later having dialup at home, I have good memories of that Internet, maybe even nostalgic by now.

I didn't have the chance of using BBS and livejournal. It was more Geocities, IRC, ICQ, mail, and web forums for me.

I knew recently about smolnet, Gemini and Midnight Pub (of course!) and I'm so intrigued, and with good emotions.

And I have similar thoughts and feelings, have worked in software, apps and such, and currently I'm working on videogames.

We use iOS/Android, Discord all the time, and we are following the latest trends for Web and consumer technology.

Of course! I'm feeling bad about using social networks and that technology. I play with FB, Twitter, Instagram for a few days, and then I uninstall them. I'm kind of addict to my phone, so I have to hide it so I can sleep better. Everything and everyone is there, and at the same time all feels wrong. Sure, I met my wife on FB Messenger and we share funny memes there, at the same time my current conversations with 'friends' don't feel right, feels gamified for bad as you say.

Since 2 years ago we're transitioning into board games. The niche is so much smaller, but they feel more personal than a hypercasual videogame. Getting in contact with the physical environment, like having to be together to play, is great, specially in the 2021.

I like the idea of 'online services' like midnight.pub, where you can access it by Gemini or HTTPS, is like a transition between 2 modes that share a same philosophy. You can browse it with a terminal, or with your phone. Are limited and accessible at the same time. I love that!

And finally I've been spending a lot of time on similar ideas. Thanks for sharing, makes me feel not so crazy about it.

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