The Internet is Great!

20th May 2018

I've read so many blog posts and articles over the past few years saying stuff like:

The internet isn't cool anymore

OK people who say the internet isn't cool anymore are mistaken. What's really happened is they've gotten older and lost contact with the "cool" communities they were a part of in the past. These communities will always exist, but they move and evolve. Some live on mailing-lists. Some live on internet-forums. Some live on IRC. Some live on link-aggregators.

The online community I benefited the most from was the Parabola community, which communicates primarily by IRC. There I learned self-respect, a lot of culture, and I learned the foundations of the skill-set from which I now make a living (a systems administrator).

Other communities I've been involved with include the various subsets of the Free Software and Open Source communities, and various web-forums on things such as motorcycles, computers etc.

Facebook and friends

I know very little about Facebook and Twitter and Instagram and other such integrated platforms because I've never used them (not my style). But I see countless articles both online and in newspaper about how many problems these platforms have. Usually about privacy or mental-health, or the platform's ability to brainwash people.

The problem I'd expect to have on these platforms is that they fail to accommodate people's creativity, uniqueness and character. Condensing a person's identity into a steam of food pics, holiday pics, kid pics.

Blogs are dead

Blogs are dead.

Haha no. I've had so many of my own blog posts go "viral" in the last few years I've lost count. The definition of viral depends on how much attention you expect your blog to get, but for me viral means more than about 5,000 unique visitors on a blog post in a day. Or to get a lot of up-votes on a link aggregator.

I've lost count of the number of emails people have sent me, commenting about my blogs, usually positive. The most common type of message is when people say they're really amazed at how well I've explained something and made them think about something in a different way. I've also had a young person say I'd inspired them, and I've had someone ask for permission to translate my post into a different language.

Several times I've had so many comments left about a blog post on link aggregators that the amount of comments exceeds like size of the article by 10x. examples: 1, 2, 3.

Most of the traffic to my blogs comes from these link aggregators:

This whole idea of blogs being somehow "dead" is such a joke. If you have something unique to contribute to the internet, the internet will give you the attention you deserve. The internet doesn't really need more pictures of people's pets or beach-body. It needs people who can contribute some real personality or creativity or wisdom or knowledge.


RSS is a technology that allows you to "subscribe" to any websites and receive a "feed" of updates from all those websites. So you get fed posts from all your favourite blogs and news sites all in one place. Google apparently "killed" RSS when they discontinued Google Reader - a popular RSS reader.

Many people in the internet community seem to think of RSS as some perfect ideal that creates a pure, decentralised internet, which doesn't rely on those evil Facebooks and Googles.

But this is not true. RSS was a silly idea in the first place. I don't think being "fed" a constant stream of other people's guff everyday is really the best way to use the internet.

Humans are creative and clever and curious. We don't learn just by having information poured into us through a funnel. We learn by interacting. By making assertions and seeing if they turn out to be true. By seeking information on things we're passionate about. By discussing and sharing with other people.

Good riddance RSS! [1]

What to do

I think we should envision an internet where link aggregators and blogs take the central stage. Plus wikis and discussion platforms.

Link aggregators are platforms for sharing links to articles and websites on the internet, and discussing those articles. And that's precisely what we should be doing on the internet! As I said earlier, it's not right for a person to simply be fed a stream of information. Only by discussing and sharing and asking questions can we learn and grow!

A blog gives you a true publishing platform which you can publish whatever you want, with complete control over every aspect of how it's formatted and organised [2].

Wikis are for collaboratively building documentation. They work great in the work-place and they work great on the public internet.

When I speak of discussion platforms I mean like a mailing list, an IRC channel or a web-forum. Different communities have their own preferences about which tools they use.

And now I implore you. Make a blog! Find a subreddit you love! TAKE BACK THE INTERNET!!

[1] I actually have nothing against RSS and millions of people still use it including me. But it's officially dead because it's not as trendy as it used to be.

[2] I recommend you make your blog in the 90s way. Find a cheap shared-hosting provider and learn to write HTML. It's so much more fun!