Sunday, July 30, 2023

Blaugust: Retreating into the Future

I’m joining Blaugust this year because the internet of the future looks like a return to the internet of the past. An article in The Verge exaggerates the current situation, but not by much:

Twitter is being abandoned to bots and blue ticks. There’s the junkification of Amazon and the enshittification of TikTok. Layoffs are gutting online media. A job posting looking for an “AI editor” expects “output of 200 to 250 articles per week.” ChatGPT is being used to generate whole spam sites. Etsy is flooded with “AI-generated junk.” 

Elsewhere in The Verge, James Vincent has drawn parallels between auto-generated text and geofoam, a synthetic material stuffed into “the empty spaces that progress leaves behind.” Generative text has made it increasingly difficult to connect with people and websites that share useful information; the internet’s largest platforms have become hollow exercises in mass-produced content for monetizing web traffic. 

This decline of great powers has played out elsewhere in literature and history. Eleanor Janega sees parallels with the collapse of Twitter and the cascading failures of the Roman Empire:

In reality the “fall” wasn’t because outside forces wanted to destroy Rome – they just wanted to control it. There was a slow and steady degradation of the services that the Empire could offer, and people began to respond to this with smaller and localised communities.

Online, a shift towards smaller, more localized communities looks like a return to internet communities of the late 1990’s and early 2000’s: webrings and niche resource pages curated by passionate individuals. In the Fediverse, people are being encouraged to post more on their personal websites:

Mastodon post urging readers to return to RSS feeds, webrings, and similar interactions in the wake of major platform collapse

I found Blaugust, the Festival of Blogging, through my Mastodon account. The festival promotes a similar idea, encouraging people to publish more blog posts on their own sites during the month of August, and I’m hoping that it can help me overcome some of blogging’s emotional obstacles

(In addition to getting the idea of emotional obstacles from Tracy Durnell, I have also been thinking about her point that blog posts don’t have to be long. Both of those concepts have helped me address some of my own concerns about publishing material that doesn’t feel like it’s “good enough.”)


  1. Thanks for lnking the Verge article, which in turn links to a host of similar pieces. Very interesting.

    The final paragraph of the Verge piece is much more optimistic than you might expect from the bulk of the article. Personally, I find the whole thing a lot more exciting than worrisome. Out of the ashes...

    1. I think I'm wary of excitement about anything at this point? I've been exposed to too much wild optimism about ChatGPT, and OpenAI, and Web3 before that.

  2. I'm pleased that Mastodon is actually getting the word out there. As for blogging, "everything old is new".

    1. 100%
      I'm secretly hoping that this time around, I won't waste nearly as much time reinventing the wheel.