Wednesday, 22-Feb-23 13:05
Content Explosion and Web 3.0

I think we now know what Web 3.0 is for real. We had a false start with IoT (where S stands for security, as the joke goes); and then the crypto folks started waving blockchains as Web 3.0. But I think what actually launches Web 3.0 are the Large Language Models, such as ChatGPT.

You see, I think of Web as content, not technology. Web 1.0 was mostly static content, created by professionals using arcane magic such as HTML and Javascript. Web 2.0 was about people manually writing, laboring their small little blogs in their own little contents of the websphere, loosely connected by technologies such as RSS and Atom and Blogger, without any knowledge of the underlying technology. Web 2.5 was about the consolidation of Web 2.0 onto large platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and TikTok, where content creation and consumption was made as easy as humanly possible.

See where I’m going with this?

ClarkesWorld - a web fanzine that publishes short scifi stories and takes submissions from all over the world - had to stop taking in submissions because of the sheer volume of AI generated drivel.

The number of AI -written books on Amazon that are sold for $1 has exploded.

Your local neighbourhood marketing person is thinking about how to utilize ChatGPT in their messaging.

Even your budding nerdy artist friend who never had the drive to do ten thousand hours of brushstrokes to be a painter is now delving into the depths of Midjourney prompts and plugins to produce art.

The problem isn’t with using AI for these kinds of things. The problem is that everyone who can is doing it. And that leads to a never-before-seen explosion in content on the internet.

This is what I believe to be the essence of “Web 3.0”. First professionals with deep technical skills, then amateurs with some skills, now AIs driven by amateurs with little or no skill.

You thought spam in your inbox was bad? Now prepare for every single meaningful content out there to be completely and utterly drowned by AI-generated noise.


Unless - and we of course will, or we leave the internet altogether - we figure out a way to filter the AI spam, much like we do right now. We know some of the tools already from the spam wars - whitelisting, paid access (I think Musk is absolutely right in making the Twitter API paid-only, because he does see the danger of combining AI with Open APIs), algorithmic filtering, trust networks, etc.

But still I fear that a massive amount of the future internet traffic will be AIs screaming to each other - one trying to constantly figure out a way to get its message across, the other trying to block it. And considering that AIs will become self-learning, because it is more efficient than teaching them manually, they will become very, very good at their job. Insomuch that stepping into the open internet in the future will be dangerous to your mental health.

Will that mean that the future is either very distributed, with people again hiding in their small corners with whitelisted participants, trying to keep AI-generated content out; or will it consolidate to an even smaller number of players, who will use their power to strike the right balance between AI-generated content and regular humans?

I think we're going to find out soon.

Tuesday, 21-Feb-23 11:07
...and while I'm at it...

I fixed a long-standing bug that allowed people to comment on older entries. This was basically an open invite for spammers. It won't keep everyone away, because I did it at UI level and not server level, but since it should keep a lot of the drive-by spammers away. Which are pretty rare these days - it seems that the work that search engines have done to keep link farming at bay, and the fact that personal blogs aren't really that popular anymore and traffic is concentrated on a few high-power sites, are causing the comment spammer to be a dying breed.

Monday, 20-Feb-23 11:05
Safari & ChatGPT woes

Okay, since my CSS knowledge is a little bit outdated, I resorted to talking to ChatGPT about how to make plain CSS to achieve the three-column layout you see here.

It gave me some real nice code for layouts; both using display:flex and display:grid, but I. Just. Can't. Make. These. Work. On. Safari. On. iPhone. Safari on the Mac, no problem. Chrome on the iPhone, no problem. But for some reason it feels like Safari on iPhone is announcing the screen width to be far larger than it actually is, so all media queries go all wonky. I know all of you CSS heroes out there are laughing right now and shaking your heads saying "yeah we know", or "use a framework you dork", but before I go the framework route (which would be a bigger job) I sort of want to understand why this is so.

Any hints?

Okay, figured out the reason - very aggressive caching by Safari. Grid layout works, but I had to learn how to connect my phone to the local dev environment [which was pleasantly easy] to actually debug the issue. A quick cache purge and yes, turns out that I had after all done everything right on my final attempt... Classic rookie mistake there :-D

Sunday, 19-Feb-23 21:05
Why I like distractions

Okay. So everybody hates distractions. You are working on something important, and you get a message, or a call, or the kid decides to tape your cat to the ceiling fan, or someone at work wanders at your desk and wants to ask a real quick question. Or you distract yourself with an important cat video or a quick peruse at Instagram, and never seem to get anything done.

It sucks. Totally.

But I had a bit of an epiphany today. It was the last class of the improv course I've been taking, and the instructor made us do annoyingly hard things in front of the class, like "you can only use three word sentences" and "you must have a dialogue without ever using the letter 'U'". And they seemed completely arbitrary, but we did those nevertheless because it was all so much fun, but then he said something remarkable: These exercises are designed to distract your conscious mind from the fact that you are performing in front of people by giving it something else to think about. Avoiding a letter, thinking in three-word sentences, using only sounds without meaning... It's all just a ruse and a distraction for the busy mind that keeps worrying about such things like "how do I look" and "am I funny enough".

This, I believe, is an important lesson. Distracting yourself at the right moment is a skill that you can learn and use to a great advantage. We often just distract ourselves without meaning and without the skill by glancing at the phone or just calling; but a skilful distraction can free your brain from a dead end it has driven itself. Some people take walks, or listen to music, or even sleep before making a hard decision, but I think this again is a skill you can develop consciously.

Magicians are known to spend endless hours to practice how to cause unnoticeable distraction in other people. You think you're following what they do, but your attention is exactly always where they want it to be. They know how to draw your attention to the right place at the right moment, and play the fine line between distraction and attention. So if they can do it, we all should be able to distract ourselves at the right moment to free our mind.

Douglas Adams wrote in his Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, that the secret to flying is to distract yourself at the right moment so that you forget to hit the ground. To me it's always been a very comforting idea, and a demonstration of the power of a good distraction (obviously ignoring the physicist screaming inside me).

I don't know if this makes sense - it's been too long since I've actively written things like this in English, and I feel I'm a bit rusty. Oh well.

Sunday, 19-Feb-23 01:49
Tuning the fork

Some minor tuning is occurring. I have dockerized the web server (which makes things such as changing the layout a LOT easier since I can test it now locally), and I have made the CSS layout a lot more responsive (thanks, ChatGPT for the help). However I seem to have lost all the attachments, so there seems to be something weird still going on. Will continue a bit later, it's way too late now.

(Well, I did continue. Images are back, but for some reason on Safari on iOS the layout just doesn't work too well. Chrome on mobile works perfectly as designed. Weirdly enough, Safari on desktop is fine as well. Oh well. Have to look into this later. In the mean time, just rotate your phone...)

Thursday, 02-Feb-23 23:11
How about the "Most Fun Prototype" instead?

I had lunch with a colleague, and she mentioned that she had made an MVP (Minimum Viable Prototype) of a "cafe in a van". They had tried it out for a couple of days, but also did branding, printed matching aprons, napkins... The whole works.

I pointed out that it's not an MVP really - they would've figured out if it works even without spending all the time on branding. If you're unknown, and you're just trying stuff out, just shipping the waffles and coffee is sufficient. But she insisted that it was an MVP - because they learned whether they would enjoy it or not. But that's not really what the "minimum viable" implies in the MV part of the prototype.

So I think we need a new word for this kind of experimentation. It's not a "Minimum Viable Prototype" where you validate a business case - it's the "Most Fun Prototype" where you try to simply have as much fun with an idea as you can in a time-boxed environment. See if you and any customers really like doing whatever it is that you want to do!

I think we need a lot more MFPs instead of MVPs. We should all be experimenting with things, having fun with them, instead of trying to achieve "a laser-sharp focus on execution". Life is more than success.

Private comments? Drop me an email. Or complain in a nearby pub - that'll help.

More info...  
"Main" last changed on 10-Aug-2015 21:44:03 EEST by JanneJalkanen.