The Dream of the 90's is alive on

@thegibson you know, that's one thing that I've never understood. the usual response (from non-hackers, usually) is something to the effect of "it was worse in the 90s/80s, why romanticize it", and it kind of just dawned on me

what is wrong with trying to make a future of that same feeling with community or 'frontier' but with the convenience/technology we have now

it doesn't have to be "terrible like it was", but it can be better than it is currently

is any of this relatable or am I just not in the right mind tonight


Things were not worse then.

two things happened to destroy the modeled future that we lost.

one, 9/11... we lost our future in the states that day... and due to that, much of the rest of the world did too due to our influence.

two, 2008...

the consumerization of IT DID NOT make anything better.

that was the lock-in for surveillance capitalism.

in the 90's, while the tech wasn't mature, we had the frontier you mentioned, and it made everything better...

it was freedom... and freedom that I work daily to restore.

@thegibson @electricsand
I really like this summary.

But let me tell you, one thing that keeps me up at night...younger generations don't get it.

They don't understand what those communities were like or are about because they've been washed over.

Their entire "computing" world is a cellphone that runs a web browser. They think "computing" is doing shit in a web browser. Think about that.

It terrifies me. I don't know how to pass the torch.

@thegibson @electricsand @devnull I think the bridge is usability. I find younger generations just want shit to work and not have to be super-nerds or fiddle with it. The technology is a means not an end. Those of us who were tech-heads in the 80s and 90s tend to be willing to tolerate more rough edges, and for the nerdier of us, the technology is even an end in itself. Surveillance corporations will pay big money to get the usability right; the FOSS world has a serious usability problem and doesn't seem to want to address it. The masses are not geeks; if we're going to free them from surveillance capitalism, the tools have to be usable by them.

That said, where is the punk/DIY/hacker/utopian ethic we grew up with? I agree, I don't see as much of it these days as there used to be.

@bamfic @electricsand @thegibson

Yes, absolutely.

Megacorps weaponized accessibility/usability. They used it to create a market that generated bazillions of dollars while simultaneously minimizing its opponents; even drafting some of them with shiny toys.

Instant gratification. I'll elaborate.

Before the internet was corporatized, and made for the masses, any online community had to be something you wanted, and sought out.

More users means more revenue. Easier to use tools means more users. Dumb it down, advertise it everywhere, and you have the Internet of today.
@devnull @electricsand @TheGibson

@bamfic @devnull @electricsand @TheGibson
Shorter version: Look what happened to Wayne's World after it got **one sponsor**

@bamfic @devnull @electricsand @TheGibson
This previous mini-rant may also be applicable

As late as 2012, everyone I knew had at least a laptop. Now, 90% of people I know IRL use a phone **exclusively**. And I do mean exclusively.

The small screen doesn't lend itself to complexities. If "it" isn't on Facebook/Twitter/Snapchat/YouTube, "it" is, essentially, "the deep web"

@r000t @bamfic @electricsand @thegibson

But hang on...

Does that mean we're coming full circle?

Do we get to reclaim computing again?

Are the people primarily targeted by the megacorps now in an ecosystem far enough away from ours that we can build tools and communities in peace?


I hope so. But here's a potential roadblock.

We will age out, we will die.

If the next generation is sufficiently wooed by the walled garden, there's no push. There's no drive. There's no need to explore further.

Why do I need books? This parlor has four screens!
@bamfic @electricsand @TheGibson

@r000t @thegibson @electricsand @devnull There's a new generation of hackers who are focussing on usability first. i.e. the work @jalcine is doing

@bamfic @electricsand @devnull @thegibson @r000t

One thing for sure: we cannot blame the users or the prisoners of those systems for being there. They got conned and then children were born into the con. It is up to us (vanguard and calvary) to bring things that can pull them out if we're concerned about longevity.

Otherwise, it's just nostalgia gone digital.

@bamfic @devnull @electricsand @TheGibson
Commercials are no longer for services with a website.

"Download the Calm app today"
"Grab the free Poshmark app now"
"This is Turo. Get the app today."

This is why Mastodon apps disappearing from stores is scary to me. If it's not in the app store, it doesn't exist.

@bamfic @devnull @electricsand @thegibson

> the FOSS world has a serious usability problem and doesn't seem to want to address it

The FOSS world would be happy to address any usability concerns if somebody poured Facebook's budget into it.

Commercial Free Software has been proven possible, Red Hat has been making profit for two decades now, but capturing FAMGA(0)-level profit without anti-features that go against user freedom has *not* been proven possible.

(0) Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, Google, Amazon
@bamfic @devnull @electricsand @thegibson

Two things can be simultaneously true:

1) Many, possibly most, free software projects could give UX work more recognition, could file down inessential weirdness that is a barrier to contribution, could stand shaping up the attitude toward people of a non-cishet, non-male, non-80s-geek persuasion, ...

2) Patches welcome

You said it yourself, surveillance corporations will pay big money to get the usability right, and free software cannot compete on resources. Saying "doesn't seem to want to" is demoralizing, destructive snark.

@clacke @bamfic @electricsand @thegibson

They could give UX work more recognition, or we could stop making software and tools for the Lowest Common Denominator.

At some point you have to put some amount of responsibility on the end user to actually understand how some things work, rather than hiding it from them.

(Obviously the happy place is somewhere in the middle; I'm just making sure we keep that in mind.)

@devnull @bamfic @electricsand @thegibson Good UX can be user-empowering. Don't fall into the trap of believing that usability == dumbing things down.

git wouldn't be coddling users or treating them like idiots if it could agree with itself on whether it's an "index", a "cache" or a "staging area", and have different commands use the same argument names.

Work on Free Software will happen when someone derives value from it:
1) A private individual does it for the joy, "exposure", or to achieve other goals
2) A corporation can derive financial value from it, and it is not part of their core business

If a corporation derives financial value from good UX, it's likely in their core business, and they will build their own UI through which they can extract value from users.

@clacke @bamfic @devnull @electricsand @thegibson
it’s worse than that, many in the foss world are actively hostile to UX efforts. I have watched many a designer pit actual free effort into designing better stuff only to have their work straight up ignored - to many developers, “UX” is made up woo, like crystals and incense

@zensaiyuki @thegibson @electricsand @devnull @clacke Does that come through? I personally hate working on GUI stuff and avoid it at all costs. Strictly command-line here; give me the code and a conf file and logs. But normal people love GUIs. So I'm part of the problem.

@bamfic @electricsand @devnull @thegibson @clacke there are barious levels of hostility. you should see the epic arguments that ensue when someone dares suggest that VI is bad UI. it was user research on how and why VI is bad that precipitated the crewtion of modern gui text editor conventions (present in every text box).

@thegibson @bamfic @electricsand @devnull @clacke it is the epitome of bad. the examplar of bad. so bad, someone went “fuck this shit”’and invented the xerox alto in a singular hate coding session.

@zensaiyuki @thegibson @bamfic @electricsand @clacke

You would have to define "bad". Different tools cater to different audiences, and as such, the tools have different UI/UX needs.

I do 100% of my text editing and code writing in either vi or vim. I don't think you mean to suggest that I've selected a "bad" tool. It's excellent for a user like myself, and I can use it more effectively than a tool made for the masses.

Making one tool for everyone is sometimes "bad" in that it centralizes.

@devnull @thegibson @bamfic @electricsand @clacke and here we go.

no- vi is objectively, measurably, scientificallg bad, by a definition of bad that is universally accepted except by VI users who are like fucking pod people, or stalkholme syndrome victims.

@devnull @zensaiyuki @thegibson @bamfic @electricsand @clacke Exactly this -- we often forget that the original vi editor was intended for use over leased 110-baud lines to a loaded time-shared mainframe. Given that level of technology, vi is an exemplar of usability compared to, say, any X11-based editor.

@devnull @zensaiyuki @thegibson @bamfic @electricsand @clacke
Also, I believe in Raskin's philosophy that "intuitive" is meaningless when it comes to good UX/UI; it's all about its habituability. Vi and emacs are both very habituating editors, despite their lack of discoverability.

Contrast with, say, Word. "Intuitive" only insofar as its UI is discoverable (which I claim the ribbon undermines); but, not at all habituating.

I still revile that popular word processors always copy Word.

@vertigo @devnull @thegibson @bamfic @electricsand @clacke did you miss that raskin specifically called out VI as terrible for habituabity?

@vertigo @devnull @thegibson @bamfic @electricsand @clacke don norman, who coined “UX” has written chapters about how awful emacs is.

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@zensaiyuki @devnull @thegibson @bamfic @electricsand @clacke No, I just disagree with his findings based on empirical evidence. In The Humane Interface, he goes on to describe the use of quasi-modes in exactly the same way any Vi user would make use of ... well, vi.

I did not learn vi as my first editor. Believe it or not, that was MicroEMACS. But it was the only editor which not only stuck with me throughout the years, but offered a consistent and repeatable UI across all platforms.

@vertigo @devnull @thegibson @bamfic @electricsand @clacke do most vi users configure vi to be unlike vi? or did you misunderstand what a quasi mode is?

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@electricsand @zensaiyuki @bamfic @devnull @clacke

I just wanted to start an argument.

I really think the argument over which is better is silly.

@thegibson @zensaiyuki @bamfic @devnull @clacke fwiw even when I used an IDE I found myself saying "why can't I do X easily" way more

then I tried vi

now I usually say "what is the best way to do X"

also I fucking suck ass at navigating GUIs most of the time. I like text :x

@electricsand @thegibson @bamfic @devnull @clacke instead of having this dumb argument again I will just refer you all to the research work of Larry Tesler, whose entire career has been built on how terrible VI is, to the point he had his name legally changed to “no modes”
his website is

@electricsand @thegibson @bamfic @devnull @clacke his credentials are that he invented cut, copy and paste. amongst other modern text editing things.

@zensaiyuki @electricsand @thegibson @bamfic @clacke
I don't think anyone else was making any arguments, and certainly not throwing out any ad hominems, just trying to point out that UI/UX will have different goals depending on the audience for any given tool.

I am also not interested in some kind of editor war. I don't think I use the best tool, I think I use a tool that works well for myself and I understand perfectly that it's not for everyone.

@devnull @electricsand @thegibson @bamfic @clacke i sooooorta agree, but also I think it’s possible to make a text editor that meets your goals that doesn’t do the tragic blunders that VI does. even experts deserve good UX

@devnull @electricsand @thegibson @bamfic @clacke I also think it’s possible for the masochists to have their VI without inflicting it on eveeyone else by making it the default editor for GIT, the linux “edit” command, and many other places.

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@bamfic @electricsand @devnull @thegibson @clacke hey by the way, I am sorry for coming off as combative. i think it all started off with a joking tone and nuances were lost between the many parties in thus thread and the lossy nature of text. i am really not trying to flame war, “pod people” was supposed to be hyperbolically funny.

@bamfic @electricsand @devnull @thegibson @clacke there is also a certain amount of arrogance and pride involved- like the difficulty of linux is the whole point- it’s a mountain they conquered, and people who want to level the mountain are a threat to that achievement.

but also, consistent, well designed UI is kinda boring to make. like paint by numbers. way more fun to incent a new gui toolkit or window manager

@bamfic @devnull @electricsand @TheGibson i agree with that but i think it relies too much on generations being different. the world is. i've always been the super nerd kind yet i'm tired of everything always fucking up on me anyway. having to fiddle with things is interesting until every problem starts to look the same and you just want it to be over and get paid while generations of other nerds made sure all you have now is a pile of hacks that people expect to keep the world running

@bamfic @devnull @electricsand @thegibson I don't know about utopian, but I see the hacker/punk/DIY mentality in every corner I care to look. Especially in crafts: people using JavaScript to drive knitting machines, 3D printing, putting Pi systems together to do the weirdest things.

The ratios seem the same. The sort who hacked computers 25 years ago are the sort doing all the above and more today.

But yeah we *really* need to work on UX for the rest of the world.

@bamfic @electricsand @thegibson @devnull I know some youngins that have that mindset. They're out there, but I think they keep a low profile.

@devnull @thegibson @electricsand

(and I'm not even joking, rly; my bestie's got a lot of MH and cognitive probs and termux made it a lot easier for her. probably because it wasn't like every shitty classroom in her shithole of a HS 😒)

(I'm still VERY pissed she didn't get access to a better education b/c reasons)

@devnull @thegibson @electricsand

(but srsly it's actually p great)

(and super nerd points if you get spotted doing it, lol 🤣)

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