-- Leo's gemini proxy
-- Connecting to going-flying.com:1965...
-- Sending request
-- Meta line: 20 text/gemini; lang=en
Years ago when I wrote the software that underlies my web blog I made the explicit decision to not support comments. I was replacing WordPress and one of the design goals was to not rely on dynamically generated pages. I felt (and still do) that generating a page on every view (either on the server or the client) is a tremendously wasteful thing to do for most web sites. I also wanted to minimize the attack surface and the amount of exposure to security risks existed on my web site, and finally I wanted to have a publish-only system.
Creating a publish-only system certainly made writing the software a lot easier. It meant I didn't need a database, I didn't need to accept any user input, and I didn't need to think about farming out a comment system to some third party that I'm totally sure I would have been able to trust not to spy on my visitors. The real motivation though was I really can't stand comments on the web. The worst seems to tend to come out in people when you can let them leave anonymous comments on pages, especially if they think those comments will get seen by others.
As a result I decided to provide a link to my e-mail address on each post to encourage readers to interact directly with me if they care to. Something about writing an e-mail feels way more personal than leaving a comment. I feel like there are two angles working unconsciously there, one being you've got a window with a single 'To' address, the other being when you drop a comment in a comment form you are as much speaking to the other commenters as you are the author. I wanted to encourage the one-on-one, human to human connection and honestly I like it. I don't get a lot of comments, but what I do get is pretty high quality.
While one-on-one is certainly nice I do see the value in having a conversation out in the open. I like the convention on the Geminiverse of reply posts. It enables discourse out in the open but requires more investment than just filling out a form and ties the reply to the reputation of the poster. All in all a really good outcome.
The funny thing is that I think the web has moved on beyond where something like what is happening on Gemini is even possible. The systems that have been built to drive engagement and encourage people to give away all their data seem to ultimately encourage dog-piling, not useful discourse. This is probably because we are more apt to react to something that makes us angry and of course engagement is the end goal, right? I think it's a big part of why web comments irritate me so, the whole system has the same feeling as the layout of a department store, designed with the sole intent to get what it wants out of you. It doesn't help that more and more you can't tell what is actually a person and what is a bot, so add to the stack of reasons you're unlikely to ever really have a discussion in that environment.
I remember the web before all of this. And the sad thing is that I don't really see a way back for it. It feels like the web is going to continue to basically be a corporate application delivery platform and it's up to us to continue to seek out places where we can actually form communities.
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