I really like this place, and it feels like home in a lot of ways.
I've been worried that the rest of the Information Superhighway turned into Wal-Mart while I wasn't looking, and I've been struggling to articulate coherent thought about some of my concerns. But I made a connection a moment ago, and I feel like it's a start.
Once upon a time a company called AOL ruled something they called the internet. There was already The |nternet, but they claimed the internet, and for some, that was all there was. This company and their internet forswore URI's in favor of something they called "Keywords". No one hears much about AOL anymore, their imagined kingdom was really small no matter how many CD's they managed to blanket the surface of the North American continent with.
Once upon a time Google searches were ranked by hyperlinks, because hyperlinks made The |nternet, so it was an exceptionally good way to search |t.
Now Google searches are ranked by... S0mething E|se
S0mething E|se was built because it turned out it was pretty easy to fool the original Hyperlink Crawler that the the Googlers were planning to use to turn The |nternet into a private eYellow Pages piggy bank.
It was turning said tomfoolery into a business that really got the ball rolling.
Search Engine Optimization: SEO*. That really should be GSEO these days (what other search engines were these businesses supposedly expert in?) incensed the Googlers. They hired a ludicrously huge moon shot team and spun up multiple research divisions and we've been living with S0mething E|se now for 8...ish years(???) I haven't pinpointed a specific threshold or divergence point.
End result, unlike The |nternet, S0mething E|se doesn't need hyperlinks to know if Thing One is related to Thing Two, and so, hyperlinks are disappearing from the internet and are being replaced by memes and short soundbite like phrases.
It's making vetting news/reporting stupidly difficult. Google will return me 10 pages of articles talking about a subject before they ever offer a source document even when these documents are easily crawlable. And it takes a needle in a haystack search through those 10 pages before I can find one article that hyperlinks back to the source they are all quoting so greedily from to score the top Goog slot. If there are links, internal is the rule, external; the exception.
Somehow, we've come full circle and are all swarming around AOL Keywords.
The Upside Down
Anyhoo. Just that.
*not in reference to the practice of SEO as carried out by webmasters and admins and such, but to the firms of Lawyercoders and Blackhats who prey on young companies
I tend to wonder how we convince ourselves that something we read on the internet can be validated by the content of another thing we read on the internet. <edit- removed verbose philosophical discussion of the hyper-real and so forth.>
it used to be linking to source on a reputable server, but that got exploited so now it's just yelling the most? Which makes setting up shop on the side of the Superhighway kinda... quaint? Thanks Teague. The pie is excellent.
For example, I googled the results of of a recent vote in the national legislature and got pages and pages of articles proclaiming the totals. Neither Google, nor any of the pages listed linked back to the source they were ALL using (the internal search tool on https://www.congress.gov/roll-call-votes). Instead, I had to search, "congressional vote tallies", find that page, and do a search on that site to see the source everyone is quoting and not linking. and it has a decent URL! http://clerk.house.gov/evs/2019/roll560.xml
This was a super easy one. It usually takes long enough that it doesn't feel worth doing.
That's an inversion of my previous comment: the articles deliberately obscure their source, since if you knew that you wouldn't have needed them and won't in future. If clicks are the resource, this is the competition for them.
It takes an advanced level of google-fu to get past and around sponsored and ill-gotten search results, but it's just arms race for those clicks.
I keep hoping someone will begin to offer an AI that will crawl my social feeds alongside me while learning the difference between wanted and unwanted content and eventually take over as a filter. Open source, and under my total control, of course.
I’ve a quarter of a mind to build such a bot for RSS feeds. Yeah, my next thought was, huh, ok are there any good alternatives (indexes, not advertisers). I’d discounted DuckDuckGo because the Nazis I was keeping an eye on seemed so proud of themselves for using it, but perhaps I should give it a go? I’d already begun considering how to unravel myself from the goog for other services, but hadn’t considered an alternative search provider. Also, I read an article earlier today on The Verge that linked externally to a press release they were quoting, and it made me happy.
I'm too entrenched in the googs to change. I tried to live with DuckDuckGo a few years back and noped out and, nower days, I can't turn on my lights/outlets without a constantly listening device or two. Save me.
There was also a brief period where Taboola like companies were auto shotgunning links onto text, especially in forums, that popped up little annoying hover boxes if you accidentally moused over one. We managed to banish those for the most part, but the real links died too?
Also it seems the ddg folks are only concerned with the privacy part of the goog’s devil’s bargain not the advertising half. Also they aggregate their results from yahoo and bing. Back to square one
@Regan you let them listen?? I turn all that shit as off as I can on my phone, use a projector and PC displays, and no hockey pucks or speakers. I mean, I also use Hangouts/Voice/gmail, so I know they have all my comms, but not on all the time listening in the house.
One of them there 'always listening hockey pucks' that was bent and broken to my will to work with my PC, innit... badly, I grant you.
I had reservations about such devices long ago before realising, to do anything online, in this digital age, there is no escaping the fact that I know that EVERYONE KNOWS MY SHAMEFULL LOVE FOR SUBSTANDARD POP web searches, so, might as be out and open about it. Privacy is dead. #TheCircle (if I remember, Teagoo worked on that movie)
I'm gonna throw this video in here. It's not explicitly talking about the subject at hand, it's more about how algorithm's have shaped, are shaping and will continue to shape the internet and discourse (Which is that S0mething E|se you keep referring to bgi. Although Tom does talk a fair bit about authoritative voices and the truth which ties into some of what you were talking about), but Tom makes a point towards the end about the "centralization of the internet" that I both agree with and echoes my thoughts on the subject at hand. (Also Tom's a fucking excellent speaker and everyone that uses the internet should watch this).
I think the single biggest factor as to why the internet feels smaller than it used to, which I /think/ is what you're trying to get at with this thread, is that in a lot of ways it is. When I was growing up the internet was this multi faceted buckshot of small sites that you had to know about already or you told your friends about, and usually went to directly. Search engines were /there/ but most of the time turned up garbage, or you had to do some serious digging to find what you looking for. But at the same time, it felt like there was so much more because it was all these micro sites each tailored to a specific thing run by individual people or small groups that were weird and unique little boutique experiences. And that's where people congregated on forums and irc and rinky dink little chat rooms where it was just you and the other people that stumbled on your little island in the big wide web. (And yes, I do love the poetry of us having this conversation in one of the last bastions of that old style web) I have distinct memories of a site that used to exist when I was in late middle school/early high school-ish (So 8-10 years ago) called StumbleUpon, where you clicked a button and it would take you to some random site. It might be a photography blog, or a flash game site or cooking or home decorating or some really bizarre experimental art project or whatever. It felt like there was millions of em, I could spends hours upon hours just randomly discovering cool shit and literally "exploring" the internet.
But if you look at the internet now, for the most part, everything happens on these massive global sites, facebook, twitter, reddit, youtube, tumblr, etc. Where people can set-up little collectives for themselves, kinda, but at the end of the day they are still living on the same platform as a couple million other people, being governed by the same rules, and design, and algorithmic changes as everyone else. And every day more and more people are shifting to these mega social media platforms because "that's where the people are", and those little islands of unique weirdness as spaces for community are going away. Everything is becoming centralized.
I think a big part of that is obviously advertising. The big companies have the audience, the big companies can make the deals with advertisers, and as their user base gets bigger they can get more advertisers and the cycle loops on itself, snowballing until you have facebook, reddit, youtube, twitter, amazon, etc as these All-Sites, and the internet at large shrinks.
But personally, I don't think all is lost. It's definitely gonna take a lot of work and some shifting of how the everyday person sees and uses the internet, but the seeds are already planted and starting to sprout. You look at the massive surge of kickstarter and Patreon over the past few years as these incredible forces for independent creators to interface directly with their audience to, whether it's filmmakers, or podcasters or authors or game designers or artists or scientists or whatever to fund their own "insert thing here" completely devoid of advertisers and the big All-Sites. I think as that ball continues to roll and people see that it is possible to carve out a piece of the internet as a place to exist and make things, that side of the internet will start to break away and become more boutique and scattered.
The community side is more of a foggy haze to me though. I think, unless something drastic happens the current platforms will continue their slow deaths off the back of greed and an unwillingness to self monitor. The winds of public perception are already starting to swing pretty hard on that front; but I don't know what comes in to replace it if it does manage to completely fail in the next 10-15 years. Part of me thinks that once everything is said and done a lot of people are going to want to go back to the small islands of self funded community, where they can control their experience in a more direct way and not have to worry about russia coming in to mess with thier elections and google having mapped your entire nueral network from browsing data to sell the perfect ad for you. But on the other hand, I don't know if the majority of normal people would be interested in an internet without that global centralized place to exist, where they can message their mom and their celebrity crush with equal ease.
Either way, at the end of the day, the internet as a tool and a space for global discourse and everything that comes with that has radically changed from 5, 10, 20 years ago, and whatever comes next it's going to have to be something that can both connect us the world while protecting us from the world; and I have /no/ clue what that looks like.
Or Google takes over the world with their army of Big Dog's and we devolve into a true cyberpunk dystopia in which case we won't have to worry about it.
I was in the middle of watching that when I wrote the OP! Fantastic stuff.
Buh. If the advertising was more interesting, I might be less annoyed by it. IMO video adverts should be for announcing new products I’ve never heard of, and text adverts should try to get me buy stuff I’ve already heard of. But the money goes the other way around, so you get vid ads for beer, and text ads for new Musics or RasPis.