Follow

computer / systems rambling 

something i think i've learned over the last 20 years:

competence in infrastructure has a centralizing tendency, and that tendency has a way of sapping or destroying _distributed_ competence.

as a concrete example, i've rambled before about how how there are no good normal-person mail clients left because all of the people who would write them are just using gmail (or satisfied with mutt / emacs / whatever).

computer / systems rambling 

or how there're no good accessible chat systems because the people who would write one are either using their work's slack or still (like me) lurking in the depths of irc.

examples multiply. the thing i thought about today was: not using a giant cloud provider sucks now in comparison to racking your own hardware and having your own cloud-like substrate because the people who would make that not suck are either using AWS or working for AWS / some other megacorp.

computer / systems rambling 

(i messed up the wording of that last paragraph, but i think you get the gist. i meant:

not using a giant cloud provider sucks now in comparison to using one, because the people who would make racking your own hardware and having your own cloud-like substrate not suck are either using AWS or working for AWS / some other megacorp.)

computer / systems rambling 

@brennen The protocols are important; as I understand it IMAP sucks for distributed; there have been attempts at replacements (e.g. JMAP) but I dont think they've ever taken off.

computer / systems rambling 

@penguin42 protocols matter, but i guess what i'm getting at is at a different layer: the people who would solve problems with the protocol don't have any incentives to do so because they just use the centralized alternative. (or work for the entity providing the centralized alternative.)

computer / systems rambling 

@brennen Even those of us who don't work for the centralized alternative, find ourselves working for places that use it 😠

computer / systems rambling 

@brennen any more examples to hand?

computer / systems rambling 

@marnanel sure. apart from the chat & cloud things mentioned in a followup:

- internet retail sucks now partly because the people who used to fund / work on its development just sell on amazon (or etsy or a handful of other places)

- discussion forums are ghost towns now because everybody who'd write / maintain / moderate one is on reddit or twitter

- mailing list software is fossilized now because yahoo groups / google groups / etc.

computer / systems rambling 

@marnanel

- there are no good answers for organizing events because everyone who'd sort it out just uses facebook.

- there are no good calendars because everyone who'd write one just uses google calendar.

computer / systems rambling 

@brennen all good points. I wonder what the workaround would be.

computer / systems rambling 

@brennen another point:

imap, as a protocol, is a nuisance for many reasons

A while back, someone designed a far better JSON/http replacement called jmap

But what are the chances it could ever be used now?

computer / systems rambling 

@marnanel yeah. my whole point here is that the people who would do that work don't have any incentive to do that work, because for the most part they are already using the systems run by google.

computer / systems rambling 

@marnanel (and if any given individual, no matter how competent, tries to solve problems like this one, mostly they're just courting financial ruin and burnout. if a smaller and less monopolistic company, say fastmail with its jmap work, tries to solve them, they might make a little more headway, but it doesn't go anywhere if it's a structural attack on a monopolist, because the monopolist dictates the rules of the game and has most of the technical capacity.)

computer / systems rambling 

@brennen @marnanel Being the one person in the group evangelizing for something other than Fecebook can be lonely, and, I would imagine, might get me a reputation as a fossbro or something.

computer / systems rambling 

@n8chz @marnanel yeah - what i'm trying to get at is that there's nothing even to evangelize for, really, because a facebook (pick your thing depending on problem domain) takes up all the oxygen. the people who would build a viable alternative for ordinary users are already using the monopoly solution and thus have no incentive.

computer / systems rambling 

@n8chz @marnanel (or they work for facebook.)

computer / systems rambling 

@brennen @marnanel There's no paid work without monetization, and there's no general purpose computing with monetization. No solution possible, outside maybe a basic income or something.

re: computer / systems rambling 

@brennen This seems related to the idea of satisficing. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Satisfic
It's easy to stop improving once you hit "good enough".

Settling on a satisficient cloud provider may also be an example of the "somebody else's problem" effect. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Somebody. It's way easier to shift the blame and grump "grr, $BIG_PROVIDER is down again" than it is to migrate away.

Sign in to participate in the conversation
federation.p1k3.com

federation.p1k3.com is brennen's single-user Mastodon instance. This instance runs on masto.host, and is thus bound by masto.host's ToS, which bar instances dedicated to racism, Nazi shit, transphobia, misogyny, incitement to violence, and the rest of the usual litany of horrors.