the whole concept of "app" as thought of today is a consequence of free software having been completely obliterated as a cultural concept

send post

instagram is a service which, due to what we in the industry call "complete bullshit", requires an application also called "instagram" to use it

but every single thing is like that so we just say "instagram is an app" and i can't stand it

even with completely nonstandard interfaces free software is necessary, if not sufficient, for fixing this

you could have many competing android photo sharing apps implementing many APIs each. real user choice

free software doesn't fix those apps being bad - we need other things for that - but it at least makes it possible for them to have other motives than "extract money from users' wallets"

the uh. slightly less wholesome conclusion here is that we irretrievably lost some time around 2012 and what we have now is just the scraps the corps are okay with throwing to us

and the FSF and GNU are basically just a distraction. the stallman thing doesn't matter, none of it matters, because we'll never have meaningfully free computing in the hands of the many

anyway i'm talking myself into [redacted] so i'm going to go to sleep before i [redacted] lol

@tindall idk about that. i think that right now, we don't have meaningfully free computing in the hands of the many because we don't really have meaningful computing at all in the hands of everyone.

personal computers are one of those things, i think, that's going to be a battleground of technical development for a long time yet to come just because of the range of things they enable.

and, well, i think peer-to-peer networking is going to be the next big thing. we just haven't gotten to mass adoption yet, but i'm eyeing blockchain as one of the things that will get the idea enough popular acceptance to really spark the general imagination. there is quite a lot there that could be repurposed.

@KitRedgrave you had my attention until the "b" word

we'd be incredibly lucky if 5 years from now (assuming we haven't obliterated the planet's oxygen supply by then) it didn't cause everyone to view all tech decentralization with the same disdain now reserved for freemen-on-the-land


@carcinopithecus blockchain is not just only bitcoin, nor is it only just tech bros trying to make sick gains in the global north.

the thing that makes bitcoin wasteful, the proof of work trust model along with ever-increasing difficulty, is not an inherent part of any blockchain system. the idea of it being necessarily even about a coin at all is not an inherent part of it either, although it has been a huge driver of use because it's convenient to fund development of other things related.

the way i look at it is as a peer-to-peer distributed data structure, with some cryptographic trust model to verify the integrity of what everyone collectively is storing. there is quite a lot of room to creatively define those terms and the uses of those components.

@KitRedgrave fair enough, i do remember reading that when this stuff first started being A Thing

but i've yet to see any other use for blockchain that wasn't first and foremost someone looking for a use for blockchain rather than anything it clearly did better than the existing alternative

for data verification i literally cannot imagine a situation where a central arbitrator (+ succession plan if that arbitrator is compromised) would not be more efficient overrall

@KitRedgrave practically, the only situations i can imagine where there's so little trust among 3+ parties that they can't ever agree on any third party to arbitrate mere data verification (not any actual decision, just making sure everyone's copy of the data is the same), those parties aren't exactly inclined to share anything in good faith with any of the others

@carcinopithecus you would be surprised how many decentralized autonomous organizations there are on these platforms, that have proposals and verified votes.

low trust on the infrastructure level and multiple verifications enables you to trust that anything that stands up to that scrutiny is legit, because it would be increasingly harder to cheat.

@KitRedgrave no exaggeration: the notion of a group of equals voting on something tjey had to work together on had completely slipped my mind

been spending way too much time in an environment where every decision is finally decided by either deference to authority or threat of reprisal

@carcinopithecus yeah, that is the thing about blockchain that's really cool. you can encode things like votes, and they're permanent, and if there are things on the blockchain that are tied to that proposal, then the transaction specified in that proposal happens without anyone having to follow up.

@KitRedgrave idk I mean even a feature phone has enough computing power and connectivity to do really cool shit if it weren't ultra locked down

@KitRedgrave and yeah as someone who was heavily into blockchain around the first big Bitcoin boom I'm. Deeply skeptical of it tbh

@tindall i was skeptical too tbh (but i hadn't gotten to it that early), but i have been giving another look at what's out there, and it seems to me that the rampant scams have more or less subsided by now and what is here is stuff that's actually of some use.

it's still pretty early days though.

@tindall yeah perhaps but like...

the thing i wonder about is how our idea of cool shit lines up with most people's. we're a lot more extremely online than most, and i think that unfree computing couldn't have taken off as well as it has if it didn't serve people's needs.

there's a lot of free software to do stuff locally, but it's been historically pretty difficult to sustain platforms to do stuff on a network that has an effect offline.

@KitRedgrave yeah I mean that's the thing right. It does serve people's needs, exactly well enough to get them to buy it over and over but no better

Like a modern family sedan, or a hot dog, or whatever

@tindall hmm, firefox and chrome started the "release number MUST GO UP FOREVER" thing around then too

@tindall I think inherent problem of free software that by itself you can't monetize it, and what facebook did is to create a 'walled garden' and sell ads in, there's also a bunch of marketing to put instagram in the minds of users.

Anyway, I've come to conclusion that free software will not became popular by itself due to systemic societal issues beyond the scope of software itself. I'm not saying that free software is bad, but we may need look from the other end of the problem.

@avolkov @tindall I fear one of the reasons for the rise of the surveillance capitalism and "ad tech" is that a lot of end users are simply unable to pay in the current economic conditions—their personal data is their only remaining asset they can trade for online services.

@dmbaturin @tindall Partly that, partly this is how the first money was made on the internet and now everyone does that.

Reply All had a good episode on how advertising on the internet got started --

@avolkov yeah, I mean, it's definitely the case that these systems are bound up with capitalism in a very intense way. I think, as I said above, some time around 2012-2013 that entanglement may have become irreversable. I hope not, though.

@avolkov @tindall We tout "user's choice" like it was the greatest thing ever, but the fact of the matter is, most users simply don't care. Most users are already fed up that some of their friends use Messenger while others user Viber and some outlier acquitances are on Skype. Most users seem to be incredibly happy if even these 3 choices would be restricted to just one, finally everyone could be chatted with.

@tindall oooooooof.

I've been thinking things went downhill since 2012, but i was concentrating too much on the surveillance / ad industry, and often forgot about the collateral damage it has caused

even to FLOSS, much of which is now corporate and has shrunk in quality on many sides, documentation, for instance

It's astounding to me that something as unusable and user hostile as instagram was able to become so popular

@tindall I’m simple I remember when apps were called programs.

@tindall I had no idea of the extent to which this was true.

(you obviously did, I'm clarifying this for others like me reading)

They enabled posting from mobile browsers a few years back, but not from desktop browsers. Just because.

People are so used to being abused that they frame spoofing a mobile browser so that you can disable this anti-feature as "a nifty trick".…

@clacke @tindall I have for a long time been of the opinion that the number of people that understands technology is constant. Back in the 80's the people who understood technology and the people who used technology was roughly the same set. This led to a misbelief that using technology made you understand it.

Turns out that the cause and effect were reversed, and just like how you don't have to be a mechanic to drive a car these days, you don't have to understand technology to use it.

The notion that kids who grew up with a smartphone in their hand would understand technology like a child learns their mother's tongue is a huge, and frankly dangerous, lie that keeps being told even today. The term "digital native" is annoying me.

Just like the people who know how to design cars put things like seatbelts, crash protection, engine temperature warnings, etc into the cars to make them safe to use for people who are not mechanics, it's the duty of tech people to make the products they make safe for the users.

The tech industry is full of drug dealers only interested in peddling their dangerous wares rather than engineers that design safe products for the public's use.

@clacke @tindall After thinking about my previous post, I realise that comparing the tech industry with drug dealers was a bit unfair to drug dealers.

I think actually the modern tech industry is more like the tobacco industry.

@loke > Back in the 80's the people who understood technology and the people who used technology was roughly the same set. This led to a misbelief that using technology made you understand it.

In the 80's there were efforts to teach people how technology worked in order to empower them to use it well. It was fairly common for someone to start using computers for a very practical end, and to then start learning how they actually worked, because the systems were set up to facilitate that.

What we have today is cynically constructed to be impenetrable. Today's computers and today's electronics are designed to keep the user out, so it's no wonder that only a tiny, extremely motivated subset understand things. That's by design, but it's not how things need to work.

@clacke @tindall

@tfb @loke @clacke @tindall at the same time, you have to accommodate people who want to use the technology without understanding it. I have spent the better part of thirty years successfully avoiding the command line, and it bothers me immensely that not only has it become necessary to do my job when I have otherwise planned my career around not needing it, but I also feel constantly judged for my life choices.

@WizardOfDocs @tfb @clacke @tindall The point I was making is not that everybody should be deep into the the technical solutions and understand everything at the lowest level. Quite the opposite in fact.

I know a lot of people who does not want to learn how to write a shellscript any more than I want to learn how to replace the drive belt in my car.

There most definitely needs to be a way for people to connect with their friends, watch videos, calculate their taxes, play videogames, manage their pictures, etc without being exploited. Today, as I believe you wanted to point out, you either have to be deep into IT to be able to do so, or you have to accept being exploited.

That said, as someone who has been programming since 1984 and is very aware of the issues with modern software I still find it difficult to do everything I need to do on the hardware I own. I can only imagine the difficulty for someone who doesn't have the same experience or interests as I do

@loke @WizardOfDocs @tfb @clacke @tindall

Focus for the use and benefit. If you do math on paper instead with an electronic calculator its good to understand and remark bugs in the system. If you gain time from it for a faster progress and come back after another bug to fix or understand the function. Its good.

However todays Software try to lavish your time and squeeze your data and behavioure.

@loke @WizardOfDocs @clacke @tindall Yeah, we agree completely here. What I find so frustrating is that modern computers are just getting harder and harder to understand, and I don't think it's at all justified.

Aside from all the old programming languages of the 80's that were much more approachable than shell scripting or JS (the BASICs and Logos and Smalltalks), there was also the path not taken with Hypercard. Ordinary people did amazing things with that, and it was discoverable where you could just dig into a stack you were using as a normal user, and start figuring out how it worked of you cared to.

@tfb @tindall @loke The interactive tutorials in Microsoft Works for MS-DOS were just amazing and taught you everything you needed to know about the text-based windowing system in general and also about the mechanisms of e.g. the spreadsheet app in particular. Haven't seen anything like it since, in their products or anyone else's.

@loke @clacke @tindall
Maybe there's no money in writing good/safe software?
Do most customers care more about security and freedom or features and (apparent) ease of use?
No, these things don't have to be mutually exclusive, but having them all costs money (and especially freedom does the opposite of earning the creator money).

The only solution would be *massive* public funding of free software, possibly tied with demands on security and ease of use. Seems unlikely to happen, TBH.

@Doomed_Daniel @clacke @tindall Indeed. I was pointing out a problem, but sadly I don't have any simple solutions.

As you pointed out, public funding is probably the only way to achieve this. Regulation is also needed. The GDPR is one step forward, but it needs to be enforced and then taken much further.

@loke @clacke @tindall
I agree.
Though regarding GDPR right now my impression is that it's just annoying, with all the cookie "consent" popups everywhere - I don't think the amount of cookies/tracking has been reduced a lot, but people have been trained to just click any kinds of privacy-related popups away, which seems like the opposite of the (allegedly) intended goal.

@loke @clacke @tindall I don't think car manufacturers put safety features into their cars because they wanted to. Regulations forced them to reluctantly do it because it drove production costs. I don't see that happening to software anytime soon.

@skeeter @clacke @tindall Indeed. Regulation is likely the only way things will improve.

However, no regulation is going to be created until society even realises there is a problem, and while there has been some awareness raised, we're still some way away from society acknowledging the problems

@loke @tindall In case anyone hasn't read this classic:

Kids can't use computers... and this is why it should worry you — Coding 2 Learn -…


'So what do you teach?' she asked as I worked on her presentation.
'Computing' I replied.
'Oh... I guess these days you must find that the kids know more about computers than the teachers....'

[ . . . ]‌ There are variants of the phrase, all espousing today's children's technical ability. [ . . . ]‌ The parents seem to have some vague concept that spending hours each evening on Facebook and YouTube will impart, by some sort of cybernetic osmosis, a knowledge of PHP, HTML, JavaScript and Haskell.


@clacke @tindall It's pretty obvious where this assumption came from though. When I was a kid, you did indeed absorb a lot of computing knowledge just by virtue of sitting in front of a computer, doing stuff. These days that just isn't true, but unless you are one of those people who did sit in front of the computer back then, you wouldn't know it.

@tindall maybe I’m in the minority here but I just Do Not Get thunderbird

@cadence @tindall I don't either, it's confusing

Not like it works with Tutanota anyways though

@SigmaOne @cadence yeah I mean it's very much a personal preference thing. My point is just that like, "productivity software" exists just as much on Linux as on MacOS

@cadence @tindall I'm stuck in the 90s, so I'm missing some perspective.

Is Thunderbird different from any other mail app? Bunch of folders containing a bunch of messages, and a form for creating new messages? What's a good and modern desktop mail app?
@clacke @tindall I can't arrange the columns in thunderbird so that the message list is on the left and the message display is on the right.

when I moved my mum to a linux laptop I gave her Geary to replace mac mail and I haven't heard any complaints.
Sign in to participate in the conversation

cybrespace: the social hub of the information superhighway jack in to the mastodon fediverse today and surf the dataflow through our cybrepunk, slightly glitchy web portal support us on patreon or liberapay!