I've been quieter than normal recently.
Time to fix that.
This is a thread about the things that I am working on/thinking about, and how they relate back to the current state of the world.
It's going to be one of /those/ threads, probably, so please forgive me if it takes me a little while to respond to you if you jump in the replies. I'll get there, I promise.
Alright, I'm spinning a shockingly clean copy of The Original American Folk Blues festival (if you've never heard it, do yourself a favor), drinking a cup of coffee (Decaf! The Horror!) and thinking about the #internet, the #web, #gopher, #usenet, The American Media Oligopoly, #copyright, #DIYMedia and the #PublicDomain.
It's been stormy. My head is cloudy, my bones ache, and I'm honestly terrified to my core of the future.
So this should be fun!
Sometime between 10 years ago and 5 years ago, @Ethancdavenport suggested to me that it'd be really cool if we could get a bunch of little intranets connected to one another all over the country/planet, and rebuild the internet.
This was honestly probably in the wake of the first brush with SOPA/PIPA?
God that seems like it was ancient history.
And it was probably before that, and just came up again in the wake of SOPA/PIPA.
Either way, the idea struck a chord with me.
The exact genesis of the idea isn't super important.
The point is that I started thinking about networking without/outside the internet.
As time has worn on, this idea has moved closer and closer to the forefront of my mind.
I've done various experiments with BBS style systems, and shared servers.
I spent too much time reading about the history of Usenet, and watching documentaries about BBSs, and just *thinking* about what a national or a global non-internet would look like.
This idea comes up any time anything bad happens to the internet (Like, you know, the Net Neutrality rollback, or the pending European copyright clusterfuck)
We could also talk about how the modern Internet is a trash fire, but that'd basically just be me saying "NAT makes it difficult to self host, and we need more ISPs to offer IPv6 addresses" and ... well that's not what I want to talk about right now.
Before I go any further, I want to talk about USENET.
Do you remember usenet?
I'm going to quote wikipedia about usenet so that I can save myself some time.
"Usenet is a worldwide distributed discussion system available on computers. It was developed from the general-purpose UUCP dial-up network architecture. Tom Truscott and Jim Ellis conceived the idea in 1979, and it was established in 1980.
Users read and post messages to one or more categories, known as newsgroups."
More from the wiki article on usenet:
"Usenet resembles a bulletin board system (BBS) in many respects and is the precursor to Internet forums that are widely used today. Discussions are threaded, as with web forums and BBSs, though posts are stored on the server sequentially.
And then, the good bit. Which won't fit in this toot and will need to go in the next one.
"One notable difference between a BBS or web forum and Usenet is the absence of a central server and dedicated administrator. Usenet is distributed among a large, constantly changing conglomeration of servers that store and forward messages to one another in so-called news feeds. Individual users may read messages from and post messages to a local server operated by a commercial usenet provider, their Internet service provider, university, employer, or their own server."
So that's ~1200 characters of Usenet summary from wikipedia.
The whole article isn't bad, honestly, but that has most of the bits you need to understand where I'm going.
The important points to take away:
- Usenet predated the internet by a good while
- You still connect to a usenet server, but you (traditionally) connected directly to it over dialup
- Usenet fully supports servers popping up and disappearing all the time.
- At this point, usenet is mostly spam, piracy, and viruses.
Like BBSs, Usenet is basically only accessed over the internet today.
Traditionally, though, there wasn't an internet.
usenet posts spread by having college servers straight up call one another, and transfer data. (Or, in some cases, by mailing truck loads of tape to another continent in order to bootstrap a new server, because it took less time to arrive than it would have over dialup.)
So your local server fetches the posts.
Then, people with shell accounts on those multi user servers could log in to their account, and fetch the news to their local newsreader.
They'd treat the messages kind of like emails. When they were done, they press a button, and sync their new posts back to their local usenet server.
The next time their server calls another server, those posts propagate the whole network.
In some ways, it was honestly a lot like the current fediverse. In other ways, it was not at all like the current fediverse.
If you want to get a feel for what it was like, check this out: http://olduse.net/
It's an archive of Usenet, updating in real time, as if people were making these posts.
And that's *really* fucking cool.
Here's some more information about the Old Usenet website: https://joeyh.name/blog/entry/announcing_olduse.net/
There was, at one time, a blog post about trucking the tapes across Canada too, but I can't find a copy of that which is still online.
Shame, but that's the way these things go.
So Usenet was designed to allow people all over the place to talk to one another over intermittent, slow, indirect connections.
These schools and other places used a lot of the same ideas for cross system Email, if I'm not mistaken. I dunno, it's been a long time since I read about email.
The upshot, though, is that we have something of a template for how to propagate certain kinds of information over shitty intermittent connections.
Personally, my biggest concern about the modern internet is that the whole thing is resoundingly fragile, while acting like it is indestructible. (https://boingboing.net/2016/11/11/the-internets-core-infrastru.html)
It was designed to be fault tolerant. It was designed to be censorship resistant.
In some ways, it is!
In other ways, it's a massive, ubiquitous tool of surveillance.
I gotta do another quick sidebar here.
Ultimately, what I want to talk about is building a regional (then national, the international) network that has more in common with fidonet and BBSs and Usenet than the internet, and how we could do that, and what it would look like.
But, before I do that, I gotta talk about one of the biggest reasons that the modern internet is less good than I want it to be, and that's The Copyright Industry.
Oh, while I'm eating: http://www.lowtechmagazine.com/2015/10/how-to-build-a-low-tech-internet.html
Go read that.
It's got some not bad ideas.
Okay, Pizza has been consumed.
So a lot of the threats to the internet come in the form of real shitty laws that the content industry or the telcom industry (and, in case you weren't aware, these are often the Same Companies) really want to see passed.
Content companies, that is to say, Disney and the rest, are evil at their heart.
I've covered the ways why before:
and I've talked a little bit about what to do about it.
I wanna do more of the second.
Simply put, we have to stop giving money to our media oligopoly.
That means we have to stop paying for media made within that media oligopoly.
That means we have to start making our own media, consuming more public domain media, using the local library's DVD collection and, when all else fails, piracy.
I can't help with the second two, but I can sure as hell help with the first two.
This is one of the small number of projects I'm actively working on.
I currently have a library of ~1000 feature films, a few dozen film serials, and hundreds of TV shows and Radio Programs that are in the public domain.
I'm working to catalog and organize these and get them in to a format that is consumable from other people.
I'm focusing on tracking down the best available copies of these public domain works, and on presenting them in a way that is conducive to discovery.
Of course, you'll also be able to submit your own CC-BY or CC-BY-SA content, which our team of crack reviewers (that is to say, me and a coupla punks I know) will consume and categorize along side the PD stuff.
In an ideal world, we could become something less like Project Gutenberg for film, and more like a repository of the best DRM free Open Licence video and audio in the world.
But I'd settle for PG for film, if that's where we land.
But the big tech companies are trying to make running sites that accept user submissions onerously expensive. Essentially impossible.
If the EU copyright thing passes, I wouldn't really be able to afford to operate in the EU. (and that's without the burden of international copyright to think about.)
So Fediverse is just rediscovery of Usenet?
At least we know what problems we'll face.
@golf_oil @ajroach42 it’s worth keeping in mind that email continues to be a federated, distributed protocol as well, and it, too, was originally designed to work in a store-and-forward way which could take DAYS to propagate. And if you’ve ever tried to diagnose a delivery delay on your own server you might end up being really annoyed by that. :)
Also NNTP tried to add in a means of revoking or deleting a message and that is as always one of the two hardest problems (naming things, cache invalidation, and off-by-one errors)
@ajroach42 I love this article and toy with the idea of trying to implement it in my major metro area to see how it handles.
@ajroach42 Sounds awsome! I can't wait to see it! And I'd love to see what you do for discovery, that's particular interest of mine.
P.S. Can I ask you to look into OpenSearch+RSS? Because that'd help me work with you on my work on Odysseus.
@ajroach42 also, here's some notes I've taken on tech that could be useful in independent media distribution
@ajroach42 that's funny, @kemonine 's lollipop project prompted me to restart my ham mesh project that was on the back burner for too long ... The gist was nodes announcing a few metadatas on 15-20Mhz ( for a wide discoverability and help orientation of antennas), and uplink on 900Mhz to still have a bit of speed and good reach. Bgp for routing and facilities like excluding bad nodes etc...
@ajroach42 Yeah but lots of programs grow far beyond their initial designs. At first UNIX was only for developing telephone technology. And Microsoft Word was originally a way to create animated anthropomorphic paper clips and eventually grew into a word processor!
@moonman nothing wrong with executing arbitrary code in order to read documents?
@moonman I agree.
It’s still super unsafe, and should be reexamined.
We talked about using dirigibles for this long before Googles balloon networking was a thing. We were mostly joking of course.
but hitching the data on busses* ... now that would be cool.
* The large wheeled vehicles that tend to run fixed route kind, not the bundle of wires kind.
@deejoe @ajroach42 Worth noting that this has actually been done! http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.476.2591&rep=rep1&type=pdf
@ajroach42 I was daydreaming about something like this, in a sort of post-apocalyptic world. Messengers take archives from settlement to settlement, updating the communities' caches.
@ajroach42 Oh gosh Usenet was so great. I was there from '94 through ... well, I'm still formally there, but I admit, I can go a week without really thinking about it and there was a time I couldn't do an afternoon without.
@ajroach42 The existence of olduse.net makes me feel some kind of way that is very hard to describe but made me exclaim "oh no." Like it's an adorable baby internet too pure too good for this world and I don't want anything to happen to it but I know things will happen. Kind of want to cry and spend the next 24 hours reading old usenet posts but then I would lose my job.
A social network for the 19A0s.