Rebuilding The Tower Monty Python Style

Those That Build


Before I even begin writing this post, there is necessary background. It comes from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Yes, the classics.

With this deep viewing follows a necessary axiom: Your users will never want nor be satisfied with what you build. Ever. Here is the next one: You are going to rebuild a tower over and over and over and each time you are going to convince yourself the software or solution is better. It isn’t.

What Do I Mean?

Recently, I was thinking about the internet and social interaction. Historically, I was thinking about how pubs were the places that people would go in order to interact with others. When you were physically at the pub, it was understood that if you started talking in a manner that you should not, some guy might just beat the shit out of you. If he did not do that, he might challenge you to a duel. Either way, what you spoke was potentially going to have consequences.

A 24hr Pub

The internet, I am afraid, has turned into a 24 hour pub. The problem with that is that not everyone knows they are on a pub or that they might have had too much to drink. Likewise, they do not understand that what they are doing in the pub does not go away when you “leave the pub” for the simple reason that you can never leave the pub. Since you cannot see your fellow pub patron, you do not necessarily know when you might have spoken in a way you should not have. Worse, it could be the case that because you cannot see the pub patron, you do not really care how they react to anything you do or say. This could create some situations, clearly, that would have resulted in the old pub backdrop in getting your face punched or your guts shot. In other words, there was some very established norms of behavior and solutions for those problems.

Enter the Indie Web

So something that seemed like it might solve some of these concerns are the ideas behind the Indie Web. The problem though, is I was all ready on the Indie Web in 2004. We had tracebacks, callbacks, webmentions or whatever you want to call them. We also all had blogs. Then, smart phones came onto the scene, and the attention span shrank to the size of the flea. Blogs basically dried up, along with all the blogrolls and so on that were present. The idea behind the Indie Web movement though, is that you have a definite identity that is yours. If you start talking smack, I can hunt you down and see who or what you are talking to. You have skin in the social interaction game. That seems positive, right? Well of course it is. The problem, though, as I mentioned, is that in 2004 we all ready went through all this. We built a tower, and it fell into the swamp. Before that, Geocities had us building a tower, and then that too fell into the swamp. Then we started giving away all of our personal info to be social and that model is in the process of falling into the swamp.

I Do Not Want the Indie Web on This Blog

On this particular blog, I do not want the Indie Web. Why? Because it is not inherently social. If anything, it would be selectively social for comments I felt like advanced the conversation of the material present. That, however, puts the onus on me to regulate those comments. I have enough to do in my life all ready. Figuring out whether some comment is genuine or from a bonafide douche bag is down on my list of things I enjoy undertaking. yet, all this underscores something about the nature of this blog. This blog is more like a platform where someone has a microphone. It is my identity, and you get to listen/read my speeches. I do not want nor care to hear what you have to say back in most cases unless you write me an email. Even then, if it is not on the topic of the matters I am discussing, I do not care to receive your email.This is a marked difference to the Indie web idea of “Let’s all be in a community and read one another’s stuff.” And yet, there are some things that are only germinated by such an interaction–like the American Revolution.

The Solution?

The internet began as a kind of academic web. The identity of the user base was pretty easy to understand. Nowadays, we are trying to have too many identities in too many different ways that do not really an identity make. If you own a domain on a server, that is a unique identity. You have a website. Yet, with that identity, you might not want to be a part of the model of interaction that has been promulgated. The only thing left at that juncture is to fragment your identity across different solutions–hence all the different social networks we have.

The Actual Solution?

We still have not totally integrated technology into our lives in a reasonable way. We use it in our careers and for social reasons, but we are simply not made to be in a pub that is open 24 hours–let alone one with a perfect memory and no immediate accountability to quickly, and ironically, kick our asses or shoot our guts out. It gives us the illusion that our words have no consequence. After all, if you get rid of some social contact that lives across the country, do you really miss them all that much? Not as much as if you saw them each day. That, at its core, is why the internet is a weird thing to try to exist upon, and why the tower will always be rebuilt and fall into the swamp. The problem is in the wetware, not the software.

JB Schirtzinger

Jacksonville, USA
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Conveniently this entire site is about me. I do some technology, and I do some astrology.