Hello, New World
I'm not quite sure where to begin here.
Great, now that that's out of the way, let's begin.
For years, I've felt uneasy. Deep down in the pit of my stomach, I've felt ill, the same feeling I feel when my conscious has been stricken. When I know I've done wrong and I know I need to do better. I've lived this feeling of guilt or of shame and I've struggled to articulate it and I still do. But let's try to unpack this together.
I turned 30 in June of last year and that's kicked off a season of reflection in my life. The past year, I've journaled on and off, mostly ideas I have for things I'd like to create or simply to exist. I'm longing for a freedom that eludes me. I feel as though I'm living in a waking nightmare powered by greed and amplified by apathy.
My daily life is dictated by Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple, and Microsoft (#GAFAM), as likely is yours. I won't waste your time or my breath breaking down how these companies operate, but I would like to point out my experience is slightly different than the average reader. I have two personas that are impacted by these companies, and we share the personal experience innately.
My professional persona is the one that truly ails me.
Back in 2007, I took an online class introducing me to HyperText Markup Language, the fundamental technology used by just about every website ever. The first lesson was about ethics. My digital classmates and I learned about Fair Use and Copyright infringement.
We learned about being respectful to the visitors of our yet to be built web pages. There's an inherent unequal power dynamic between a webmaster and an enduser. With that power comes responsibility.
Naively, I have assumed for too long that everyone working on the web was schooled in ethics.
Microsoft gave me my first taste of enterprise software. As a student, I was able to apply for free software from the Dreamspark program. I downloaded everything. I was hooked, but there was a catch.
Once I was no longer a student, I would need to pay for Visual Studio at the low price of a cool grand and change. Not seeing how I was going to afford that kind of software on my pizza delivery salary—making sub-minimum wage plus tips while using my own car and gas—I swore off Microsoft for good.
I had been a student in the D.A.R.E. program and I knew, the first drugs were free, because then you were addicted and you'd need to pay. My mind linked these two as one and the same.
From then on, I was all-in on Free and Open-Source Software.
Meanwhile, I'm actively learning and honing my skills as Facebook is growing in popularity. The same skills I'm learning power Facebook. I knew I could build Facebook or build something better. And I tried. Multiple times. And I did it. Multiple times.
Even though I succeeded, I ultimately failed. I learned a lot and the technology was there, but I was missing a key ingredient: Users.
Now understanding the Human-Computer Interaction equation required humans, I decided to lay in wait for when I had just the idea that would attract people. Until then, I'd just work hard and improve my own skills, ready to adapt when the time was right.
Since 2014, I've worked in Silicon Valley, a long time dream of mine since seeing Pirates of the Silicon Valley in my computer repair class in 2004. My role model being Steve Wozniak, the only protagonist in that film.
For the first time in my life, I felt seen here. Saying my go-to introduction of, “I work with computers,” was met with, “yeah, no duh, what languages and tools do you use?” And I'd tell them and they understood me and I understood them.
I had found my tribe, people I could actually speak my language to and discuss all the nerdy things I had repressed during social interactions to not bore my audience.
I believed these were the golden days of open-source, every company was contributing something in some way or another. But one by one dominoes began to fall in my mind. I won't offend you with all of my Hot Takes ™, but these are the two shoes that fell for me to think, “Oh, shit. This ain't it chief.”
- Facebook's licensing snafu with React, where they'd revoke your license if you competed with Facebook
- Microsoft's purchase of GitHub
The second one namely being a big deal to me from my prior experience of swearing off Microsoft due to their digital drug dealing. My world ended up somewhat shattered, naively I had thought GitHub was the gold standard for FOSS.
This left me thinking, “Do I really need GitHub?”
Realistically, actually no, not at all. By the very nature of git, it's decentralized. I can pretty easily push my code up to any server, it doesn't need to be GitHub.
So why is GitHub valuable to Microsoft?
GitHub is valuable for the same reason Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple, and Microsoft are valuable. They've got users.
So why do I feel uneasy about all of this?
A decade ago I had a blog on Wordpress. I used RSS, I followed humans and I read their thoughts, their fears, their frustrations, and all alone in the dim light of a glowing monitor, I felt connected to them.
As a professional, I've watched the web grow into this monstrosity that is hostile towards beginners with an incredibly sharp learning curve. Colleagues strove to move fast and break things and they succeeded. “The Platform” is used as an insult. #GAFAM showers us with their blessings and the tools they've created are worshiped.
And I sat idly by as I watched the open web I knew and loved erode, happy to just be collecting my paycheck. And maybe that's okay, maybe there's nothing I could have done, but I'll never know. To quote my mother:
Shoulda, coulda, woulda.
Well, the best time to plant a tree would have been ten years ago for me. The second best time is now.
I've known about the Fediverse, and Secure Scuttlebutt, for quite some time, but never made the switch over. I don't think I'll be able to articulate why, but with my few limited interactions here, I'm already much happier than I was on twitter, my main social media intake.
So here are a few reasons I'm happy to be here:
- I'm interacting with humans again! I can comment on posts and get a response. People have blogs and they talk about things they care about.
- No algorithms! Twitter enraged me daily, they have a way of finding content to irritate your pet peeves. Tell me HTML isn't a programming language to my face, you cowards!
- Decentralization! My favorite part of git applied to to an entire network? Sign me up!
I'm pretty new to the fediverse and I'm looking for community. I'd love to be friends, if you'll accept me. All I ask is we stick together as humans.
Let's not allow ourselves be exploited by technology and the companies that control them ever again, since that is why I have felt so uneasy all these years.