draft0

Menu

Entries tagged 'cat:World Wide Web'

Community Based Discovery of Interesting Content on the Small Web

Warning: This entry uses a LOT of words to come to a banale conclusion. Skip to the last paragraph for a tl;dr.

I was thinking about possibilities how interesting web sites could be discovered without relying on general-purpose search engines, web directories or unstructured recommendations in blog posts or threads in bulletin boards. Search engines will likely always be prown to SEO and therefore commercial content popping up among search results when that is not what the seacher is looking for. Web directories can be very nice and helpful if they are maintained well. But the criteria by which links are selected and categories don't always fit the needs of the visitor who is in search of new interesting content. Personal recommendations are worth a lot and I like it when people care enough about a web site or blog posts to share a link in chats or web forums. But they don't satisfy the use case that I have in mind. What I mean is the use case of wanting to create an aggregated feed of content (blog posts, other text posts, videos, audio podcasts, etc...) without learning about every single source of interesting content individually first. If you've been a member of a large social media platform you probably know how helpful it can be, especially to somebody who is new, to be able to follow sources that produce similar content quickly, making it worthwhile to stay, even though you'll want to do a finer selection of what goes into your feed over time. On Twitter I used the retweets of some few accounts with similar interests to build a very interesting feed quickly, and follow and remove single accounts over time to build perfectly individualised lists for myself. On Reddit, you can join a few really big subreddits and have some interesting stuff instantly, then over time find smaller and even more interesting subreddits that weren't among the search results of your favourite search terms.

With weblogs and the small web though, you have to know or find some web sites first to get just a little bit of interesting stuff, then click through a lot of blog rolls and link lists to find some more. It can be a very interesting journey and pastime. Maybe it fits the mentality of bloggers who don't publish on large platforms. But not everybody sees this as a good thing. And looking at it practically, somebody who wants to switch from consuming a single large social network to reading many small independent content producers does not have it as easy as somebody switching from one large social network to another.

Lists on Twitter and Shared Circles on Google+ are the perfect intermediate between picking out yourself what you want in your feed and following what everybody else follows. You do pick yourself, based on a list of interesting sources a friend or like-minded person has shared with you, but you don't have to pick every source individually. Likely there will be content among the possibly hundrets of authors you've started following with one click that you don't like to read. Then it's up to you to put them into a different circle/on a different list or to unfollow them completely. But to start out with a good set of interesting bloggers, you didn't have to search through thousands of web sites yourself first.

I don't see a reason why this isn't done more often with weblogs and other interesting web sites. I've shared and received OPML files for this purpose before. But for some reason people don't usually post their collection of great RSS and Atom feeds on a topic publicly. I'd like to encourage you to do so. If my feed collection wouldn't be embarrassingly outdated, I'd make a start. But the reason why I started thinking about this topic is precisely that I don't have a well looked after list of feeds on any topic. I just haven't cared about them enough for years. I will get it in order and post it here at some point though.

Comment

Unpublished Poetry

There was a time where my days were more influenced by poetry. A time where I ruminated more about feelings. At that time I was a regular reader of some web forums that were hardly or not specific to any topic. Do you remember those web forums? It may have been created as a place for a group of friends to interact online, but kept public, growing into a close community of so-called virtual friends. Or it may have been created to be a place to mainly discuss things around a single topic, like most web forums, but the off-topic sub-forum developed to be an important part of people's lifes, or even the main purpose to visit the web site. Or it may have been a web forum that was created for no declared reason, as a learning object for somebody who wanted to learn more about computers and web hosting. I loved those places. I still love the memories of them, and the thought that I was carelessly interacting with strangers back then, without the issues that are inherent in posting something to an unknown or wide audience of people today.

Anyway, I stumbled over short poems in 2008 that one user kept posting from time to time. Sometimes two a day, sometimes one a quarter. He was posting those for years and usually got no, seldom one, reply. I don't know what meaningful things people could have replied to them. They were just expressions of the authors feelings at the time, philosophical thoughts in a poetic dress, sometimes short stories, furious or gleeful, of events in the author's life. I didn't understand why they didn't catch more attention, expression of gratitude, attempts at answers to open questions or reader's thoughts from their own viewpoint. After all, they posted them publicly, in a friendly community, where it was expected to get all sorts of replies. Maybe the poems didn't often resonate with a lot of people. But many of them did with me. I never before thought that poetry would ever build a nest in my head. But theirs did, before I noticed. They hit a spot in my mind that I didn't know was perfect for reading and feeling poetry. I made a compilation of their posts in which I was sure to find a piece to cheer me up when needed, get the strength to make the right decision against my intuition when I knew my intuition wasn't a good guide, and all sorts of other little helpers in everyday life, as well as new thoughts I wasn't looking for. In that nest in my head there soon were my own thoughts and experiences, that, at some point, wanted to leave that nest. So I made some effort to form them into nice sentences, phrases, lines, sometimes rimes. That is, I started to write my own poetry. It felt necessary. Those thoughts had to go somewhere. I wasn't any good at it, which is why this entry is about somebody else's unpublished poetry, not mine. Mine fell to the ground as soon as they left the nest, and I didn't care for them enough to make them into something that I would have deemed worth backing up or copying to a new hard disk when necessary. I didn't even remember them when I typed the title of this entry.

But the poems of this unnamed author were good. I was back then and pretty much still am as uneducated and inexperienced in poetry as I every was. I have no clue what a good poem is. But their pieces are really good, judged by the effect they had on myself back then and the feelings that they are still able to produce in me today when I read some of them. One time I got into a conversation with the author over personal messages and mentioned the compilation that I made. They replied with a PDF of their own, a complete (up until that day) compilation. It contained many poems that they hadn't published. Some of them because they were too personal or could have the potential to identify them. Many of the published ones were very personal, too. But they didn't want them to be connected to his person in "real life". I promised that I'll never share them with anyone, no matter how much I think they ought to be enjoyed by or given the opportunity to help others. And that's the reason I'm writing this entry instead of posting the PDF. I guess it is considered wrong to tell somebody that there is a secret that you won't say anything about except the fact that it is secret. Allegedly that's no use for anybody. I don't think that's true. It has the use for me to have shared what I sometimes can't stop thinking about and, hopefully, payed a little bit of tribute to the anonymous author.

Comment

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?

Comment

(tba: all my thoughts on the topic. (yeah, i'm creating empty entries again to which i hope to come back when i have some time and the right mood to write.))