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Entries tagged 'cat:Opinion'

The Web Sucks

Not all of it. But definitely most of the world wide web sucks. I recently stumbled upon a blog post that puts many of my thoughts about the modern web into words well and that I'd like to share:

The Web Sucks by Chucho.

25 years ago I imagined what would be possible if I had access to the internet. 20 years ago we were excited about and enjoyed the possibilities of the web It was better than imagined. 15 years ago we were excited about so much more interesting and useful content, "Web 2.0" and the new possibilities that really started to become useful tools in everyday life. 10 years ago pretty much everbody was online, it had become too crowded but we knew where to go, which browser extensions to install and what to filter for a good experience. 5 years ago I started to realise how fucked the web had actually become.

It happened so slowly that it felt normal. But eventually the vast vast majority of content on the web was and still is commercial websites that mainly serve a purpose other than educate the reader, share experience, knowledge or other content. Almost all of the sites that appear or claim to exist for spreading information contain more paid content than actual content. It has long become impossible to filter out the pieces of the web with a less-than-creditable intent. I think way back when you considered to install an ad blocker for the first time, that's when a major line was crossed. It became so much worse so quickly that I can hardly remember how benign a large potion of the web was years ealier.

More people than ever share content in good faith on the internet today. But even this urge to share experiences, be it for the gratification of an urge to present the author's thoughts and feelings (like this entry) or for altruistic reasons for a greater good, is commercialised and directed into channels optimised for profit maximisation. You can't even access most of it without signing a legal contract that you definitely don't understand (because specialised legal experts aren't even sure how to interpret many of the most important parts) with one of the subjectively most evil companies in the history of mankind.

No wonder many people try to abandon the web as much as it is still possible (which is becoming less and less). No wonder the Gemini project was founded with built in feature contraints and has their users argue and decide against implementing basic features into the protocol that would help make browsing the gemini space a more comfortable experience. From the technological view, openness to new festures, the extendibility of the protocol, has made the mess the web is today possible.

Of cource I'm ignoring many things here the modern web enables and that I use and choose to continue to use. I'm still wondering wether any of it is worth the trouble. From relatively small trouble, like megabytes of at best useless Javascript to larger trouble, like huge companies using AI-created algorithms that have never been evaluated for anything but how much money they potentially could produce when put to use, and intentional policy choices, pressing most of humankind to produce less helpful but more profiting content and, more and more commonly, intentionally harmful content on a scale science is starting to realise is impairing quality of life, empathy and may even have notable bad impacts on international politics.

Seriously, what are we doing allowing to be done with this technology?

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Real Life

Of all the things people do wrong in the usage of language, this is probably my pet peeve. Maybe because I believe that I can reasonably argue against it.

People use the term "real life" ("IRL" and, very similarly, "real world") as if it would mean the opposite of "online" or "over the internet" or "using some electronic medium". Hereafter I will call this the wrong usage of the term. It is done so often and regularly that it actually does mean one of these things. Before I describe what I think the problem with it is, let me try to explain what I'm talking about, exactly. Both of those words (real and life) have meanings on their own and using them together is absolutely in line with those individual meanings. I don't find it absurd to expect that the phrase means "the life that is actually true, as opposed to fictional". In fact, I consider it better to expect this meaning because not only did this meaning exist first, it also continues to be used. "The real world" is used meaning the opposite of a virtual world. I suppose the internet was considered to be a virtual world in the beginning and assume that that's where the wrong usage of "real world" stems from.

The main problem that I see is that when people regularly and naturally apply the wrong usage, the notion that the internet is not part of the real world, the real life, is reinforced, which I fear may influence the perception and the expectation that what happens on the internet does not have the same meaning or effects on life as things that happen without the internet playing a major role. In some ways they are (e.g. greater possible audience on social media than on a soapbox), but not in the way the use of "real world" as the opposite implies.

A conversation in a chat room can be much more real than a conversation offline. E-Mails, their meaning and effects on the world aren't less real than those of letter written or printed on paper. A confession over a video chat platform is not unreal compared to a confession over a telephone call, which is not unreal compared to a confession given in close physical proximity, just different. A threat posted in a Whatsapp group doesn't have less impact than a thread yelled at a schoolyard or under four eyes.

I imagine that the more this wrong usage is ignored the more its wrong implications get internalised by society and individuals. I wouldn't go so far to assume that there is a relavant relation between the wrong usage of "real life" and "real world" and the prevalence of "cyberbullying", online harassment and other extreme forms of modern trollship. But I also don't think the possibility that language influences the thinking and by that extension the actions of humans should be overlooked. I wouldn't be surprised if there was some connection to be found. But I don't know of any research on this nor would I expect to find any.

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I feel like I'm not using modern technology and other privileges that are available to me today to it's full potential. I think that nobody is even able to. I mean, I'm sitting here on a bench in the fields writing a blog entry and uploading it to "my" web server via SSH, listening to an independent web radio over the internet in-between browsing the web (that really is almost world-wide) for any information that interests me at that moment, with a "phone" capable of so much more than I would have thought 20 years ago even desktop computer should be able to do. But still, so much would be possible with today's technology (mainly the internet and small, battery powered devices). Humanity, what are you doing, wasting your own inventions? steeph, what are you doing wasting your time and resources on listening to some random person talking about something just because it fulfils your momentary desire for information about that topic while typing this sentence?

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