So, when I say computers suck, I don't actually mean that computers suck.
I mostly mean that they change too quickly.
I don't mean that modern software is bad, and old software is good as a rule.
I mean that some modern software is great, and some of it is horrible. And a lot of modern software is no better, or is actually worse, than some old software at the same tasks.
Heck, there are a few scripts that I use literally every day that I wrote myself on a DOS machine when I was 12.
Some of them are still DOS batch files running in DOSEmu, but most of them were eventually ported over to bash or PHP or whatever.
I consider them the same, though, because they still do the same things.
Now, my software that I wrote for my own use isn't archived anywhere other than in nextcloud on my server and on some DVDs and flash drives stashed here and there.
That's Bad! I'm not eating my own dog food.
Some of that is because the software itself is trivial, or because it was never intended for distribution.
A lot of it is because I'm embarrassed to show the world code I wrote when I was 12 (or code that I wrote more recently that looks like it was written by a 12 year old)
So in the spirit of eating my own dog food, I'm going to start (slowly) releasing the software that I write for public consumption.
I'll self host a git repository somewhere, and put together some web pages about it all, and make sure that the binaries and the sources end up in the internet archive with good meta-data because that's the closest thing we have to a good future proof archival solution at the moment.
I'm going to upload PDFs of old issues of the AR magazine, too.
That's scary for me because there are lots of things in that that I wrote, or that @CaptainUnderpants wrote and, while they weren't particularly personal at the time, they are very personal in retrospect.
Lots of the people we talk about in those issues no longer talk to us for various silly reasons (and occasionally for some very good reasons.)
That takes me through point 4 (DIY media) and point 3 (computers are bad) and touches point 2 (the internet isn't perfect.)
Let's focus on that for a minute.
The internet has problems!
The web also has problems!
The available replacements for the web (Gopher, DAT, IPFS) also have problems!
Let's talk about these things.
When I say the Web has problems, I mostly mean this: https://www.neustadt.fr/essays/against-a-user-hostile-web/
That's a long article, I'll sum up:
- Centralization is bad!
- Everyone is spying on you!
- You are executing arbitrary code every time you load a URL (Even Mastodon//Especially mastodon, although in Mastodon's case that code is open source and publicly audited.)
I'll add to that: most web browsers now have DRM in them, and that makes it illegal to do certain kinds of security research on them in many countries.
When I say the internet has problems, I'm mostly talking about a lot of technical mubojumbo that boils down to a few points:
The people who give us access to the internet don't always have our best interests at heart,
Further, the internet is used by governments as a tool of surveillance, and centralized identities through platforms like Facebook exacerbate this.
Also! Wired infrastructure is almost always owned or operated under exclusive contract by a big 'ol nasty corporation.
Most of the problems with the internet are super technical, or straight up legal issues.
And the solutions to them will be super technical, and also legislative.
The upshot, though, is that the modern internet is less free than it should be, and we should recognize that it can be abused, and have a backup plan in place in the event that something goes wrong with the net.
For me, the backup plan for the internet is a return to the BBS model (I talk about this a lot: http://ajroach42.com/a-modern-bbs/)
Lots of people, especially in urban areas, have been talking about mesh-net ISPs, which are a good idea, with a whole mess of potential problems of their own. Not the least of which is that they will only really work in populus areas.
Right now, as far as I can tell, there isn't a single solution to the problems presented by an unfree internet and a user hostile web.
But there are a bunch of partial solutions.
I cover a lot of these here: http://ajroach42.com/net-neutrality-the-consolidation-of-american-media-and-you/
But I'll sum up.
To fight Centralization:
- Own your data.
- Archive your data online and off.
- Use decentralized services like Mastodon and Matrix and whatever whenever possible.
- publish to places that aren't facebook or medium (and if you must, only use central services for syndication.)
To fight user hostility:
- Use ad blockers and privacy badger
- If you can get away with it, use no-script or similar when possible.
- Stop using, or reduce your use of, platforms that profit from treating you poorly.
To fight ISPs being shitty:
- Lobby congresspeople to actually do something about net noot.
- Talk to your local governments about municipal fibre
- Consider building networks that don't depend on the internet (Sneakernet! Mail those flash drives back and forth. Intranet! Set up that piratebox.)
I talk about some more of this here: http://ajroach42.com/steps-towards-a-web-without-the-internet/
I mentioned DAT and Gopher and IPFS.
Each one of these really deserves a longer deep dive than I'm going to give it right now.
Gopher was a service that existed before the modern web that used the internet to share files and articles and stuff. Read more here: http://ajroach42.com/gopher-remembering-the-web-that-wasn-t/
It's neat. I like it. It can't spy on you or execute arbitrary code on your machine. It'll work on a DOS machine from 1982.
DAT and IPFS are attempts to make the web way more peer-to-peer.
I don't know as much about IPFS, but I'm learning.
DAT forms the bones of the "web without the internet" project I've been working on (http://ajroach42.com/steps-towards-a-web-without-the-internet/)
Unfortunately, DAT currently only works on (relatively modern) desktops. Eventually, it should also work on mobile devices, but until then... it's not an ideal solution.
Neocities (one of my favorite free hosting companies!) uses IPFS.
When I start writing guides for taking back your digital life, I'm going to include Neocities among the options.
I know it seems weird for me to be promoting a centralized service, but they are free and open source, they make it easy to download your stuff, and they are honestly just a Lot of fun.
We've covered DIY media, Modern computers, the internet.
That leaves me with my personal life.
I'm moving. It's stressful and scary.
I might have to find another job when I get to where I'm going, and I won't know for sure for several more days.
This is pretty stressful. It's going to end up being about $2k more out of pocket than we expected, and there are all kinds of weird rules about where the money can come from and ... it's just a lot.
When everything is said and done, I'll have more freetime to focus on making media and writing code and helping the world be less shitty.
Until then, I have less time to do those things than I otherwise would, because I am planning the logistics of this move, and looking for a job, and making the move happen.
That was a quick rundown of my priorities right now, and a demonstration of why the things that are globally important are globally important.
I'm going to take a few minutes to go through my replies and gather some steam, and then I'm going to talk about my to-do list.
The projects that I want to cover in the next six months that relate back to those four overarching ideas, and the ways in which I need help.
Okay, let's recap:
1. We have to make media
1.5 we have to talk about the media other people make
2. We have to Archive the media we make
3. We have to make software
4. We have to archive the software that we make
5. We need viable alternatives to the web and the internet
6. We need to be smarter about the ways we use the internet
7. I may end up looking for work in the next 6 months, I will be moving 600ish miles. My ability to do The Work will be impacted by this.
Over the next six months, I want to tackle some of these things.
1. I'm working with @CaptainUnderpants and hopefully some others (any volunteers?) on some podcasts.
That is to say, I'm making media directly.
I'm also working to support (socially and/or financially) as many independent creators as I can.
This is a good start towards making media.
IMO it's not enough. I want to see more media. Do you want to make stuff? (Next several posts will be about the podcasts and other media.)
Podcasts that I am planning/actively working on:
1- Jupiter's Ghost: A sem-crowd sourced podcast about a bunch of folks living on a space ship in the future told through personal logs and official mission reports. (I've been working on this one for a long time! It's still in the works, but I want to get it right.)
2- Analog Revolution. This is a successor to the Zine that I used to publish (and will be publishing again.) Two or three people talking about News, DIY Media, Tech, etc.
We have a couple of episodes in the can, but I want to get some more finished before I start releasing (part of this is as a result of the not wonderfully consistent internet connection of my co-host.)
3 - DIYMedia: Needs a better title, but this is people sitting around in a rabbit room watching a piece of CC or PD media. Actual podcast is 5 minutes of historical context followed by a discussion of the thing we've just watched, both as a piece of media on it's own and within the context of the DIY media landscape.
4 - Space Nerds: A sitcom about sysadmins/sysops running BBSs/the internet in space.
I have literally dozens of pages of podcast episode ideas, and a little pocket notebook that's full of mostly ideas for shows and episode formats that I want to play with.
I'm going to need help.
Part of that is going to come from the crew that helped/helps with the magazine, but I'm going to need to recruit (a lot) of additional people to help out. If this sounds like your cup of tea and we haven't already talked about it, reach out.
Beyond podcasts, I'm currently working on layout for the next issue of the Analog Revolution magazine.
I'm pretty pumped about this one, because that was a project that I loved working on.
Making zines is fun! It's also pretty hard.
Again, I'm 100% on the hunt for people that want to help out. I'll come up with some kind of decent system for us to collaborate eventually.
1.5 talk about media.
I blog. I'm going to make DIY media a regular feature on my blog over the next six months. Ideally, with a DIY media spotlight at least once a week.
Beyond that, of course, is the zine.
The zine is the perfect place to talk about DIY media. The DIY Media podcast, if we can ever get it off the ground, is another great place to talk about the things people are making.
2. Archive media
I keep offline archives on DVDs or AVCHD DVDs even though I don't own a thing that can play either.
I also have multiple terabytes of storage at home.
My personal archive strategy will remain largely the same. Nextcloud + hardcopy.
But in addition to those things, I'm going to start putting as much as I can in to the internet archive.
Unfortunately, just archiving the stuff isn't going to be enough without also indexing it.
My plan on that front is to put together a very low resource static website that embeds and/or points to all of the things I have on the internet archive.
I'll probably host that through neocities, although I might put it up on it's own server. Either way, it'll have it's own URL. Gotta figure out what that is going to be.
No reason for that to just be My stuff, though.
(Both because most of the things I consider "mine" are actually communal efforts, and also because I want to highlight DIY media in general even if I wasn't involved with it)
Which means that whatever thing I put together to serve as the index of AR's DIY Media output will eventually grow to include references, links, and embedded files for many of the other lovely things you all are making.
3. We have to make our own software:
I'm working on this. I'm redesigning my workflow from the ground up in to something I actually want.
I am not, unfortunately, doing this: ajroach42.com/a-modern-office-with-vintage-hardware/ but I am taking my cues from that to work towards what I actually do want.
I'm also making an effort to know *Who* wrote the software that I'm using (Hi Gargamel!) when that who isn't me.
This will be a long journey.
It really comes back to making our own software and documenting our own software.
If we do it right, the end result will be our own web.
6. Using the internet better
For me, this means not suing facebook or tumblr for content discovery, and pushing people to my RSS feed and newsletter when they want to keep up with the things I'm releasing.
I'm going to spend more time on Mastodon, on tildes, on neocities.
I'm going to spend more time with adblocker on and scripts off.
As I do that, I'll write about it. Hopefully we can talk some other people in to doing it too.
7. Moving far away
As a result of moving, I may be looking for work. I may not be looking for work.
I may suddenly not have free time, which means I may miss releases or planned goals.
I'm going to have to roll with things as they come.
For as long as I am able, I am going to release as much as I can as often as I can, and document the heck out of it.
8. (This is an 8th, hidden point)
I think that covers all the thoughts I had rattling around in my head, and gets them out in the world in a way that makes sense and is understandable.
My goal is to make as much cool shit as I can, and to help as many people as possible also release cool shit.
Do you also care about these things? Do you want to help me make media or publish zines?
Do you want to release your own zine? or your own media?
As I'm getting my house in order, and releasing my media and my software, I also want to document as much as I can about *how* to do these things.
I'm going to put that together along with the "Andrew Answers your Questions about software and project ops" thing that I'm tinkering with.
So in addition to all the other things I've committed to, I hope to have a basic DIY media school kicking around out there somewhere.
@ajroach42 I go on strike from Book of Face and the birbsite most Wednesdays, to make myself develop community elsewhere. Could easily add other sites/services to that list.
@ajroach42 Ideally, our own non-web.
The thing is, most of the web software is open source. We already own the bare bones. We just have to replace the corporate stuff with stuff that guarantees encryption, anonymity, and verified identity. And it has to be tacked on in a decentralized way because the corporations are not implementing this.
Like keybase. Don't know much about it actually but I just saw it and I'm checking it out. Looks like it's providing encryption and verified identity which is cool.
Any opinions on keybase? Anyone use it?
A social network for the 19A0s.