The Information Superhighway

Today’s topic is web. That’s a little vague so I am going to clarify and focus a little more on what I do on the web, what I like and don’t like, and the areas that are most interesting to me personally. I am going to include apps in addition to a web browser for our purposes. That clarification did not make me feel very confident about today’s entry. Let’s see what happens.

Web access points

MacBook Air (2020, I5 Quadcore)

Iphone 7

Xbox One (2013)

Roku Stick

Kindle Paperweight (roughly 5 years old)

How Would you describe what you do on the web?

I would say that I consume a lot of content for the most part. And I also use the internet for more general utilities – email, banking. Social too, although I am almost 100% a voyeur, and don’t put myself out there very much. This series of blog entries reflects a very conscious decision to try and be more public. I want to be more public to allow for more social interaction, to give people more insight into who I am.

Browser and Apps

Web Browser – I switched from Chrome to Safari when I replaced my old computer in April. I liked Safari and was willing to make the change based on Apple’s commitment to controlling cookies.

Web Apps – what do I use daily

  1. Gmail – stays open, first tab.
  2. Notion – started using about 6 months ago, second tab. Use for daily journal, weekly planning, and now blog entries too.
  3. RB Digital – this is the magazine reader that my local public library is connected to. I keep a copy of The Economist open as a tab just in case I get bored.
  4. Airtable – I am maintaining a DB of my media consumption.
  5. Google Drive / Pages / Sheets – notes, quick documents. I’m not using as often as I was since I cancelled my google paid account and started using Notion and Airtable more.
  6. One Password – Safari extension, but this is probably my favorite paid app ever.

Iphone Apps – what do I use daily

  1. Gmail – email
  2. Spotify – Albums and Podcasts
  3. NY Times – reading the newspaper
  4. NYT Crosswords – Have a subscription, games and killing times, usually do puzzles Monday – Wednesday before it gets too hard.
  5. Chase – banking and credit card.
  6. Google Maps
  7. Whatsapp – occasionally to keep in touch with family.
  8. Bloomberg – Capital Markets and Foreign Exchange Rates
  9. Coincap – Crypto prices
  10. Google Arts and Culture
  11. ProtonMail – backup email.
  12. Apple Weather

You’ll notice that a few key, highly popular apps are missing from my list. Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, TickTok, Reddit. I had all of these on my phone at various points but chose not to keep them on a few years ago. My Facebook account is deactivated. Twitter I still like to peruse quite a bit, more than I would like to admit probably, but limit it to being on my computer as kind of a soft cap. Same with Reddit. TickTok I checked out when it was first getting some buzz and I really liked it, I was learning how to dance, but felt weird spending time on there at my age. In general I don’t put that much out on social media so I am just consuming mindlessly.

The other app that I have on my phone but am not using very much at the moment is Slack. I think this again is from not working at the moment and generally from not being very social online, but I know that it is the default communication program for a lot of businesses at this point, so I need to make sure I don’t allow myself to fall too far behind. That would be a real professional liability.

What Do I like best about the web?

Access to information. I am always blown away, even though I shouldn’t be at this point, by how I can read and learn about anything, anytime. So many people out there, you are bound to run into people with similar interests no matter how obscure it is online. Reddit is my favorite place to go deep on topics. Most recently I’ve been learning about how to handle my hair which has given me problems for my entire life. I also like accessing a lot of interesting things and new ideas from people I follow on Twitter. Quora was a great source of similar information for me in the past, but I haven’t been going on there as much recently.

What Don’t I like about the web?

Sometimes I feel like a lot of what happens is performance art. And of course it’s difficult to read intent very well through short text. Regarding the first point, I like reading discussion boards, but it sometimes feels like people are trying to flex too much. Show how much they know about a topic. Same with some of the general writing I see. People trying to cultivate a personal brand also annoys me a lot, probably because I am ashamed to be doing the same thing. Along those same lines, I am fearful of becoming a performer myself, and trying to show-off as I get involved. Your motives change a little bit.

One weird idea I think about is how the internet would work if it was all anonymous, but not with pseudonyms, and pepe icons, but just a numerical identifier. Everyone was just a number, and you communicated on boards with other numbers. You knew nothing about them, avoid sharing any personal identifiers. I know how unrealistic this would be under normal circumstances, and how hard it would be to cover signals through language, etc, but if you could stage it and conduct the experiment I wonder how people’s behaviors would be different.

It would also be interesting to see how changing anything with the numerical identifier, or presentation of the writing (fonts, text color, etc) change people’s reactions. It’s all weird but interesting too. You wouldn’t know anything about who you were communicating with. I wonder if the same incentives for deprived behavior would exist in this type of system like it happens on 4Chan or some other Incel haunts.

One of my first web ideas was a board that randomly paired you with someone via a video chat with a timer. 5 minutes or so, and you each get time to just say whatever you want. I thought about it from the perspective of venting. I want to vent to someone I don’t know at all, just to get it off my chest. This was around 2010, and someone told me about Chat Roulette which they said could be used for the same purpose. It wasn’t being used for the same purpose from what I saw, but what I saw did turn me off to the whole idea so I forgot about it.

A current web related idea I think about all the time is contra to what I have been talking about oddly. Baseline – a lot of work, friendships, collaborations, romance, etc is going to go further online since the pandemic and general shifts in behavior it has brought along. As such, you are going to lose the credentialing you have from meeting people, others vouching for them, etc. You need a way to show who you are to other people for them to trust you. Otherwise you could be a complete catfish? I think that’s the right term. What I mean by that, is a completely fraudulent digital entity. So there would need to be tools, that are verifiable that allow you to show yourself to others. What you’ve done basically – I think about it in terms of proof of work, proof of competence, etc. You knew I was going to bring this all the way back to decentralized systems, here we are.

I have a lot of strange consumer web ideas. In terms of what I’m using now that’s new and leaving a favorable impression, I’d say Notion. I would say it’s helped me get going, and stay consistent with my writing. The functionality, but also the interface. I find it pretty soothing.

One area where I’ve had lots of stops and starts is online education. I’ve taken some courses through Coursera. I’ve learned a lot just by watching YouTube videos too. Everything is out there!

And last, I love the ida of the independent, small business web. Thinking about buying a url and hosting like buying a storefront somewhere. But it’s much cheaper! You can make it whatever you want. If it’s in the middle of nowhere, it’s true that almost nobody might ever visit, but when a visitor does stumble upon your place, that’s pretty cool. I think starting an online business is clearly more appealing from an economics standpoint that starting a business in the outside world. And I think people now are not looking at ways, or maybe others are I haven’t been looking for ways to make a nice, solid, steady check online versus trying to start another google or insta. There are some communities on the fringes of online tech who are thinking this way, but I think the majority of younger people are either in the camp of wanting to work for a big tech company for the money, prestige, and perks. Or they want to start something big on their own for the money, and a different type of prestige, and maybe from an idealistic view of the freedom it would bring. I would just say that some people trying to start their own online businesses are doing trivial low-value activities like drop shipping. I would hope there are other ways to provide value in exchange for money for people online without having to resort to those types of things. But who am I to judge as long as you aren’t malicious.

Ok, this has turned into a long, rambling stream of consciousness. I would be surprised if a single person, over the course of eternity, ever makes it this far down. If somebody is reading this, why? Leave a comment below.

Thanks and I’ll talk to you again tomorrow. 51 Minutes. 1749 Words.

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