So Long, Twitter and Reddit
It's been over three years since my last blog post. I think that the website code started to feel like it had bitrotted, and so making new blog posts became onerous. But I've taken the time to redo this website using Zig, so it's quite easy to add blog posts now, and plus I added dark mode.
Over the past few years I amassed a healthy number of followers on Twitter by posting screenshots, demos, and small progress updates for the Zig programming language. It felt good to gain an audience and have my perspective and efforts weighed more heavily in the court of public opinion.
However, I always knew that it would need to end. It's not really possible to use Twitter without at least a little bit of doomscrolling, and that activity took a toll on me emotionally. I think that the core concept of a "tweet" is fundamentally unhealthy, because by design it promotes angry and extreme content. Nuance and subtlety is impossible to distinguish from dog whistling. Most users don't understand that by "dunking" on someone, they are actually promoting the content. In summary, it gave me a darker feeling about the world in general, and in exchange, did not offer much to enrich my life.
It has now been a few months since I downloaded all my data and deleted my account, and in retrospect it was so, so worth it. I feel more optimistic about the world and human society in general. I interact with people around me with fewer preconceived judgements about their belief systems. And finally, I have more nuanced conversations with my wife and friends about politics and other hot topics, without worrying that I'm going to come off as dog whistling or naysaying.
One thing I do miss is to have the ability to correct misinformation that I stumble upon in the wild. For example, somebody linked me to this tweet:
I cannot stop thinking about this. Andrew created Zig and ~15 years ago asked on SO how to open a file in C++
(screenshot of this StackOverflow question)
if you take this in any other way than this is incredible and motivating that you can accomplish anything with time + effort then you nuts/sad
It's a sweet sentiment! Unfortunately it's based on a bit of a misunderstanding. If you look at the date the question was asked, it was August 11th, 2008. According to Wikipedia, StackOverflow launched on September 15th, 2008. How is this possible?
I'll tell you - if you look at the citation, it's a link to the launch announcement on Joel Spolsky's blog - a blog that I was a huge fan of when I was 20 years old. The fact is that Stack Overflow actually was annouced before that, on a podcast episode with Jeff Atwood.
Being a bored intern at Lockheed Martin, because they failed to find me anything to do besides "learn XML", I enthusiastically participated in the launch of Stack Overflow, including asking basic questions such as "How do you open a file in C++?" in order to farm karma points. And it definitely worked! I have edit powers on that website now, and you can bet your ass I use them to clean up misleading suggestions and stinky opinions whenever I see them.
Now, I don't want to poop on ThePrimeagen's parade, so I can find him some replacement lore. Here you go, enjoy! Binary files - Programmers Heaven
I don't have a clue about binary files. I'm a good programmer, have read more programming books than I can count, but still have no knowlege about binary files. Can you read them? Will they look like text? Is it good to use them? How can I print to a binary file, and then retreive from a binary file?
I was 14 years old when I wrote this cringefest. I think ThePrimeagen's take can survive transplanted from the Stack Overflow question to this forum post.
Unlike Twitter, where I find the elemental unit of socializing problematic in and of itself, I think the Reddit formula is solid gold. This one is a case of malevolent platform stewards. I expect this from every platform run by for-profit entities, where the goal is not to serve the users, but to milk them for capital gains. The grim reaper of capitalism has come for Reddit.
Right now, venture capitalists are freaking out about "AI". Publicly-traded businesses with access to structured user speech that can be used as training data are rushing to build a moat around that data. That's why Twitter prevented viewing tweets from logged out users, and Reddit locked down its APIs despite it causing a massive protest from the moderators who do the actual labor to keep the website running.
Detecting that Reddit enshittification was reaching terminal levels, I decided that during these protests was the ideal time to close the /r/zig subreddit, which I was currently a moderator of. I closed the subreddit, downloaded all my user data, and permanently deleted my reddit account, leaving moderation to Loris Cro, VP of Community of Zig Software Foundation.
Once Loris was the sole moderator, he decided to change the subreddit to read-only mode. However, this was thwarted today when a troll (check their comment history) performed a hostile takeover in broad daylight and reopened the sub. It appears that Reddit admins are perfectly willing to forcibly replace moderators in an effort to keep the system churning out user data. Those Large Language Models are hungry!
Anyway, I don't consider this to be a problem; it is outside of my control what Reddit does with its own data. I just want to make it crystal clear that Zig, Zig Software Foundation, and myself are not in any way affiliated with /r/zig. That subreddit is now run by a third party and all signs point to a high likelihood of problematic behavior happening there which I definitely want to avoid being associated with.
Update (2023-08-30): As of today, the moderator of /r/zig is now Jens Goldberg, a well-regarded member of the Zig community.
If you want an alternative to a zig subreddit, give Ziggit a try. This is the Discourse forum software run by dude_the_builder, a friendly Zig community member, and I find it to be a healthy and rewarding way of socializing with other community members.
I have a Mastodon account, but I don't love it, for the same reasons I didn't like Twitter. In addition, I think that way of consuming content is generally like watching mainstream TV or listening to radio with ads. You're letting a bunch of people who aren't really that important to you, or qualified to do the job, be the content curators for you.
Discord has been decent for a while. I suspect enshittification will commence soon, so we should be on the lookout for an alternative over the next five years.
I'm going to look into setting up an RSS reader for myself and start hunting for high quality blogs.
And finally, I will be redirecting my micro-blogging energy that was previously wasted on Twitter into actual-blogging energy here.