As blogs died, RSS receded, and people owned less of what they posted and their relationships with others, the question was if the seeds of that dream of a distributed Internet would be forgotten. The Fediverse is fresh soil. Let’s see what blooms.
Once upon a time on an internet far, far away, I felt like a genius when I wired up Twitter to our blog to post real-time updates about the birth of our first child.
That kind of transparency today feels absolutely insane. We had a medical emergency in my family last week and set up an invite-only community on Band to keep friends and family updated. Not email blasts, which can be forwarded. Not Facebook groups. And for damn sure not the open web.
I ran a decade-long blog about the urban renaissance taking place in Newark, NJ. I built websites on the open source WordPress platform and avidly attended local WordCamps. I was an early believer in social media (user #68,743 on Twitter, back when it was Twttr). I stayed up to speed with Web Standards and RSS and believed “the future would be syndicated.” I drank all the Kool-Aid, holding out hope that tech would usher in a utopia of peace, transparency, even joy.
People—smart, kind, thoughtful people—thought that comment boards and open discussion would heal us, would make sexism and racism negligible and tear down walls of class. We were certain that more communication would make everything better. Arrogantly, we ignored history and learned a lesson that has been in the curriculum since the Tower of Babel, or rather, we made everyone else learn it. We thought we were amplifying individuals in all their wonder and forgot about the cruelty, or at least assumed that good product design could wash that away.
And, yet. And, yet, this new fediverse. Disruption by way of decentralization.
I don’t think for a moment that tech is above the celebration of human cruelty. Not after this past ~decade. But maybe we’ve learned a little something new about how to take some more pragmatic steps towards a better world through tech? Maybe there’s a little space to hope again?
Once a day, he would call a “creative meeting” to discuss whichever project would soon fall due. He would not bring sketches, or notes, or a creative brief to these meetings. Instead, he would “lead a creative brainstorm,” which meant we had to listen to him spout whatever shallow, idiotic idea proposed itself to his limited mind at that moment. We were then supposed to leave the room and execute his so-called “concept.”
It didn’t matter if the idea was derivative of someone else’s widely known better ad, or if it was superficially cute but meaningless, or wrong in tone, or more likely to hurt than help the client’s business. He had spoken, and that was that.
Hold the problem in your mind. Freak out, but don’t put it down. Give it a quarter-turn. See it like a scientist, and as a poet. As a descendant. As an ancestor.
“It is an immense privilege to be alive at this time,” Alice Major says from Edmonton. “We owe it to ourselves to try as hard as we can to understand what’s going on. And to give meaning to it. . . . Only by understanding our lives as meaningful can we hope to create meaningful change.”
Here’s to the new decade not ending the way it began.
Derek Webb once wrote a song about breaking up with his former band and it’s been echoing through my mind again and again (for, uh, no reason):
She’s not real, she’s the spokes on a wheel
And the way she moves takes you where you wanna go
And you’re the one that she steals from
But if not you she’s gonna find somebody else
‘cause nothing is ever enough
Nothing is ever enough
25 The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him.
26 It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.
27 It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth.
28 Let him sit alone in silence when it is laid on him;
29 let him put his mouth in the dust—there may yet be hope;
30 let him give his cheek to the one who strikes, and let him be filled with insults.
31 For the Lord will not cast off forever,
32 but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love;
33 for he does not afflict from his heart or grieve the children of men.
And he was as devilish in person as in print. A fellow Times columnist, Tom Wicker, recalled that Mr. Baker, talking once to college students, was asked, “What courses should a journalism school teach?”
He replied: “The ideal journalism school needs only one course. Students should be required to stand outside a closed door for six hours. Then the door would open, someone would put his head around the jamb and say, ‘No comment.’ The door would close again, and the students would be required to write 800 words against a deadline.”