I guess the question that occupies my mind a lot these days is:

Can we build a healthy, positive, life-affirming Internet?

I feel like large parts of our Internet infrastructure are toxic to mental health and social freedom and were designed that way on purpose, because the system seeks money, and you get more money by controlling people than by allowing them to flourish and reach their full potential. This has always been capitalism's big problem (and socialism's too).

@natecull The internet isn't inherently good or evil. That's determined by what people do with it. If you want to create an internet that can't be used in bad ways, I don't think that's possible, at least not if you want it to be useful at all.


"The internet isn't inherently good or evil. That's determined by what people do with it. "

No, I don't subscribe to that view of technology at all.

The idea that technology is "value-neutral" is itself an idea (and ideas are themselves technologies), and it's an idea that I don't think is value-neutral.

I think every technology has a shape. It imposes that shape on us, making some acts/thoughts easier, and others harder.

Our tools shape us. We should care about what that shape is.


To take one axis of many by which to measure and describe the Internet:

Our computing environment can be decentralised, or centralised.

Each of these options might not be strictly describable as 'good' or 'bad', but they are certainly *different*.

If everything you say online is filtered by a central authority (as in China) ... then that shapes society in a certain way.

If everything is filtered by Apple, that is also a shape.

If there is random chaos and viruses, another shape.

@natecull @mansr Technologies definitely aren't good or evil for the most part, eg a knife can be used to murder, hunt, prepare vegetables, save lives in surgery. In some cases the type of knife is specialised but even then, surgical tools have been used for evil based on their design not in spite of it.

I vastly prefer decentralized tech but centralized isn't evil; each offers a trade off. Centralized is simpler for users, and faster to develop.

@byron @natecull On the centralised vs distributed topic, consider the public library. An institution largely regarded as good, is is nevertheless without a doubt a centralised solution. A distributed "library" would mean asking random people in the street if they happen to have the book you're looking for and if you might kindly be allowed to borrow it. I don't think that would work very well.

@mansr @byron @natecull that's a myopic view of decentralization and an inaccurate description of libraries. Librarians communicate between libraries where neither library is the "central" library. Decentralization is about decentralized control and access, and in the case of libraries, control of information - if you can visit two libraries with different collections and policies, I don't see that as "centralized"

@2ck @byron @natecull Sure, and you can choose between Facebook and Twitter too.


@mansr @2ck @natecull LOL That was funny. Of course the key diff is that Twit/Face are social networks that are anti-social with each other.

I think by decentralized we generally mean not "choose which fiefdom to be a serf in, multiple choice allowed" but that you can actually be part of the network in any of several nodes.

@byron @mansr @natecull i call that "peer-to-peer", ad hoc, or mesh . the latter tend to have more hardware feel, but avoids asshats like me being butting in 😉

@mansr @2ck @byron

I do, and I remember it dying, I think because of spam and abuse.

It was a sad day when ISPs stopped providing Usenet service, and it was a sadder day when Google stopped being the Usenet provider of last resort.

I remember FidoNET too, and how the BBS scene pivoted to become ISPs and that's how America Online happened.

@natecull @mansr @2ck One thing I liked though about the spam era of Usenet, which was around the time I started using it anyway, was that the spam measures were all on the user end. You had to learn how to manage a kill file, which on the one hand is a negative because it excludes less technical people. But the idea of choices of who to filter and mute, being in the hands of individual users, was a good path.

We only see remnants in the "safe search / all results" of search engines.

@byron @natecull @2ck I never experienced a spam problem on Usenet. Maybe the server I used filtered it. I gave up when there were only a handful of people still posting in comp.unix.programmer. Everybody else had just gone away.

@byron @natecull @2ck I think what killed Usenet was its governance. Although the operation was decentralised, the group hierarchy was tightly controlled. When internet use exploded, anyone who wanted to create a new discussion group was forced to turn to mailing lists or web based solutions, and Usenet dwindled as a result.

@mansr @byron @natecull nope. before my time. we were facebooking and ... making myspace pages by the time i started on the internet

@mansr @2ck @natecull Hell yeah. Usenet actually stayed good surprisingly long. We even had some private usenet groups for our uni. I remember when IRC was a zoo, too, instead of a ghost town like most of it is now.

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