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In my post about the Fediverse, I spoke much about self-hosting my own Calckey and Pixelfed instances, and talked about an intriguing website in my recent post about self-hosting. In this more rambling post, I’ll discuss my thoughts about that website, Fediverse instances, Web 1.0, and the role technology plays amongst them all.
A month or so ago, I stumbled across a toot suggesting the services of omg.lol to another user looking for a place to blog. I found the website unlike anything I’ve seen elsewhere. On the face of it, it’s just a simple subdomain for $20 with DNS modifications and email forwarding, but there is significantly more to offer, and then verges more into an entire community.
Isolated, you get a profile page, a Now page, a statuslog, photo hosting, and a blog, as well and access to an API, a pastebin, proof system, and URL shortener. Some features can be connected to the larger community, such as a communal Now page, and there is also a shared IRC and Mastodon instance.
For $20, it doesn’t seem like a bad deal to get all that - most blogging platforms would charge more than that a year alone, and a .com domain is around $10. Plus, it’s all wrapped together in a single space with good documentation and, of course, a fun subdomain.
But it is access to that subdomain, not a domain you own, and you’re paying for a service which may disappear. If you set your online life around omg.lol and it closes one day, everything linking to example.omg.lol will break.
However, I do love this idea. Technically, it’s genius to bundle up a bunch of smaller services, make them easy to access and understand, and distribute them to the masses in a fun brand. Community wise, I am drawn in by the shared omg.lol name amongst its members, how many of services are communal, and, of course, its purpose built IRC and Mastodon instance.
It’s not something I would join due to being able to replicate many of its desired services and be more customisable to me, but something I would suggest to others who may want to dabble with some of the services being offered, but not set up and maintain them, particularly if they were looking for some social aspects too.
I recently came across a toot I had mixed feelings about. It stated that Mastodon wasn’t an RSS feed, it was a place for communication, so we should stop just following each other for the sake of it, and instead start creating conversations.
My feelings were mixed as I do have a small confession to make: I was one of the first users to join Twitter - but never posted. I still use that account to this day, sixteen years later, but again, not to post on. I instead do use it as an RSS feed, reading interesting tweets by others and keeping up with modern society, culture and news.
On Mastodon, however, I do use the platform as social media, liking and boosting interesting toots, replying to people, and writing my own toots. I’ve found it incredibly vital and important to my mental health, having been socially isolated online for many years following bad experiences of being judged, and deciding it was easier and safer to step back and observe rather than participate.
As such, my view on social media has changed over the years. For the longest of time, particularly on Twitter, I saw a very ugly side of social media - one of bullying, unrealistic expectations, and curated lifestyles. I recently read a toot which said something along the lines of how they liked Mastodon because it celebrated ordinary people, and I completely agree. The experience is the best I have faced, and for me, it is largely due to it being about ordinary people and their daily lives, forming connections with them, and ultimately feeling less alone.
As I previously mentioned, I decided against staying on a self-hosted Calckey instance, and have chosen my new home in Mastodon on the cutie.city instance. I’m very happy with my choice, enjoying the local feed and my fellow members, as well as the enormous amount of emojis and great active admin.
Of course, being federated, I have lists of users I’ve met on previous instances and follow them to see what they’re getting up to every day. That’s the beauty of the Fediverse, I’m able to still be part of a close knit community even though many of us are now spread around across many different servers.
WebRings and Web 1.0
It was actually a recent toot by one of my fellow cuties that made me remember an old fashioned way of creating community back in the days of Web 1.0 - WebRings!
I spoke previously about the efforts of places like Neocities leading the charge of bringing back Web 1.0, and WebRings are also used there extensively, as well as generally interconnecting between similar websites created there. It’s another example of technology being used to create a greater sense of community I feel we’ve lost, ironically (?), in the age of social media dominance.
While I haven’t coded Web 1.0 style in many years, I have still saved every single website I’ve made, and so do have my old Web 1.0 websites coded and saved, which could, I guess, be uploaded and reused today, and may be access to another community I share many interests with. My only concern is how these websites function through an accessibility lens, I would want to research more before spending too much time to the idea.
Regardless though, I think technology can aid in creating a great sense of community. Of course, it may be more difficult for some minorities, and I am reminded of someone I spoke to recently who said they struggled to find others online similar to them as they weren’t interested in subcultures popular amongst people in their demographic. However, with platforms such as Mastodon and the resurgence of WebRings, as well as the decline in popularity of services such as Twitter and Reddit due to recent changes, I am hopeful we are moving towards a web more interconnected with others and built on grounds more personable, rather than a corporate web driven by algorithms, advertisements and animosity.