Isaac Blake

Computer science student and game developer

A rambling discussion of online communities, from Facebook and Discord to an ideal of the entire web as a community and the Fediverse as our burgeoning compromise

Companies like Facebook and Discord, who provide very centralized, siloed community-building services, might claim “decentralized community” is an oxymoron. They'd argue that centralization is necessary for a community, that the very definition of a community is a single place where people come together to share ideas and keep in touch.

Indeed, both websites have a rules page about their respective “communities”. (Facebook's here and Discord's here. Facebook proclaims on the first line: “Every day, people come to Facebook to share their stories, see the world through the eyes of others, and connect with friends and causes,” and this frames Facebook as a massive community (containing many smaller ones, also locked to the platform).

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In an early cloudy August afternoon, my family and I walked to the tip of Great Diamond Island, where we’re staying for a few days. At high tide, Little Diamond Island is visible across a stretch of blue-green water, with just the thin ends of grass blades breaking the surface. But when we arrived at the shore, low tide was just an hour past.

Between late-1800s-era houses, flowing grass and bright wildflowers, we approached the narrow, muddy sandbar connecting the two islands. Cross-island joggers passed us as we strolled along the sandbar, our voices loud and our eyes turned down. The mud was laden with snail shells, clam shells, and barnacle-covered rocks and bricks. We chatted over little fish (were they minnows or tadpoles?) darting around in tide pools. We were probably all wrong; both only live in freshwater, not the saltwater of Casco Bay.

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My grandma recommended this book to me after she borrowed it from a friend of hers. She told me it had lots of references to coding and technologies she didn't understand, but she said I might enjoy it. I did, thoroughly. With qualitative depictions of programming languages like Ruby, websites like Hacker News, and a web designer for a main character, the book is a testament to Sloan's knowledge of hacker culture during the recession. My own limited knowledge cannot vet all of it, but the parts I knew felt authentic and fun. It was thrilling to read such a well-researched novel, and for me, its accuracy was its biggest draw.

The plot was generally enjoyable but sometimes felt slow-moving and predictable (sometimes Sloan drops just a few too many hints). Additionally, although the book sometimes reads like a mystery or detective novel, (and this might be minor spoiler, so beware), it isn't totally possible to predict the ending. While I could predict what story's big resolution would be, I could not have predicted the all-important details of the resolution. This (minor) deus ex machina frustrated me, and I felt a little cheated. After the main resolution, the rest of the story falls into place predictably.

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