Wednesday, October 1

A lot of things are happening right now in my life. Many of them are interesting enough to write about, but a lot of them would be a bad idea to write about. Some things that seem kind of harmless to talk about follow.

First, ok, Ello. It went around SparkFun IT a few weeks back and I got an account. I remarked that it was barely functional, and then kind of kept messing with it anyway. Some of my friends know some of the developers, there’s kind of a local Boulder vibe to it, I liked it as this little ghost-town place to put some stupid pictures.

So now it’s still barely functional, but somewhere after that it kind of blew up. Little wave of palpable excitement at the idea of somewhere to be on the web that isn’t a billion dollar corporate silo, thinkpieces, minor scandals, brands engaging, the whole bit. Impossible to tell quite how engineered, in retrospect. And I’m still interested in what’s happening there, because it’s kind of a differently shaped space. It breaks as often as it works, it’s probably doomed, and even if successful it’s the usual shit sandwich of closed code, central control, and vaporware funding model, but what the hell. I’m still interested in where certain parts of the traffic are headed, I guess. I’ll probably keep putting stupid pictures there for a while.

If anybody who works on Ello is reading this, I don’t mean to sound like such a total jerk about it in general. You made a neat thing. People are interested in it. You’re probably working unbelievably hard right now. I sincerely hope that you have a good time with it and that you have better luck than most in catching up to your own rhetoric. It’s just that I wish the world were better, or at least that those of us with the means were trying a little harder to make it that way.


Meanwhile, I don’t know if Paul Ford was thinking of as a commentary on the now-routine structure of things like Ello or if he was just like “it’d be neat if people were putting stuff in ~/public_html again”, but is pretty interesting.

What is it? It’s just a mediocre Linux distribution running on a cheap AWS instance, with some shell accounts and Apache installed.

This turns out to be fairly interesting, in the way that unix systems have always been interesting as pocket universes, and all the more so when shared.

We (the “we” of “nerds who structure the internet for a living”) spend a lot of time agonizing about social networks and control of social spaces and the way all the protocols are being eaten alive by massive corporate silos. Is it too much to think that we could address a lot of fears and problems just by revisiting the way that the substrate all of this is built on used to be a thriving social environment in itself, with an extraordinary set of tools for communication and self-expression?

Maybe cheap virtualized servers could actually be liberatory for users of the network if they were treated as first-class entities instead of just as leverage for the centralization of power.