Small communities are the best communities
31 May 2023 | 10:00 pm

This post was written for the fourth issue of the Ctrl-ZINE.

The web is pretty big. Putting a precise number on how big it is is probably impossible, but we can safely assume there are more than 1 billion websites out there. The world population is around 8 billion and close to 5 have an internet connection. That's a lot of people.

How many friends do you have? How many relatives? How many acquaintances? I'd hazard a guess and say that fewer than 100 people are actually part of your life in a meaningful way.

Let's say you'll live 80 years and let's also say that adult life starts at 18 years old. That leaves us with 62 years or 543120 hours. Some studies estimated that it takes between 40 to 60 hours to form a casual friendship with someone. 543120 hours divided by 60 is just a bit more than 9000. That is 9000 people you could potentially form casual relationships with in your adult life. Now, that number assumes you spend 100% of your time doing nothing but relationship building which is problematic to say the least, because there are other things you might want to do such as, I don't know, eating, drinking, and sleeping just to name a few. So let's just cut that number in half.

4500 people are a lot. But also, not really. In the digital world, 4500 followers are nothing. With 4500 followers on Instagram, you're a nobody, 4500 visitors on your site are really not that impressive. And yet, if you were to take the time to actually know those people it would probably take all your life.

The web loves big numbers. Marketers use those numbers to impress, to validate. But when it comes to communities, to human beings, bigger is not always better. In fact, the opposite is often true. It's in small groups that we have chances to discuss things that are important to us. It's in small groups that we have time and space to debate and grow. Deeper conversations can only occur in the right context and big communities don't allow for that. Because big communities move fast. And individuals become less and less important the bigger a community grows.

We should treasure small online communities because small communities are the best communities. Blogs with a handful of dedicated readers, forums with fewer than fifty users, group chats with a dozen participants. Those are success stories. Not becoming huge can and should be seen as a good thing.

We don't need a million followers. And maybe we don't need a thousand true fans. But we probably could use ten good internet friends to make our digital life better.

A moment thinking about decisions
27 May 2023 | 10:00 pm

This is the view I had in front of me earlier today while I was writing my latest entry for my quirky newsletter.

Answering machines
25 May 2023 | 10:00 pm

Google has been around for almost 25 years. That is an eternity when it comes to the digital world. And Google was not the first engine to go online: from AltaVista to Yahoo! to Lycos we had our fair share of search engines available to search the web. Right now, the search engine world is going through a weird phase. And that's because AI has descended upon us. Bing with GPT, Google with Bart, it seems like the AI revolution of search engines is inevitable.

But I'm wondering, at what point a search engine stops being that and becomes something else? If search engines become answering machines, what are we losing in the process? If sources are no longer relevant, if we no longer need to visit websites, what's gonna happen to the web? And what's gonna happen to us as web users?

Following a link on your search results page is an act of discovery. You'll land on a site you might have never seen before. You might discover and connect with other human beings and you might learn about things you never even knew existed before clicking on that link. But if you get your answer from an answering machine, your journey ends there. It's convenient, sure, but we might be losing something important in the process.

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