The Wastelands of Discord and the Fall of Twitter

Ever Collapsing Channels of Digital Communication

There was the Golden Age of early Blogger & Forums; then the Silver Age of Blogger/WordPress and Google+; and finally, the Bronze Age of, well, whatever was left. And then there’s now, the Iron Age, with the Wastelands of Discord and the Fall of Twitter. So… meh.

The above quote from James Mishler caught my attention, dovetailing with my recent Other Hands and Other Minds Fanzines.

Back when I was getting my undergraduate degree, in the waning days of the original Tactical Rules Studies (TSR 📖), they were doing everything in their power to control the places where folks could access digital Dungeons and Dragons (D&D 📖) content. I remember heading down to the campus computer lab at odd hours and attempting to get into the one site that was permitted to house D&D content; text-based fan-created content.

Perhaps that behavior came from the stinging defeat the courts handed them in regards to copyright, namely that you can’t copyright rules but you can copyright the words you use to describe the rules. Fitting given Wizards of the Coast (WotC 📖)’s current telegraphed effort to iterate on the Open Game License (OGL 📖).

But I digress.

Having long read James Mishler’s blog, I’ll take an informed guess that the ages he describes refers to online gathering places for folks playing, creating, and discussing “Old School” games. A place where a small group, relative to the general population, gathered.

And as each new thing emerged, there would be a bifurcation. Some staying on the old, some splitting attention to both, some to the new, and some dropping away completely.

Moving from one platform to another, especially one “owned” by someone, is precarious. Companies collapse or choose a different direction leaving those platforms once the effort of extracting value exceeds the value of that which they extract.

During those migrations two standards have remained, although efforts continue to asphyxiate them:

Email is under siege because of the behemoths controlling the protocol; try running your own email server these days. I’ve chosen to pay Fastmail to run email for my domain.

And the syndication formats face headwinds from those who make money on content “curation” (advertising). Most folks want their “news feed” and “email” accessible on all their devices and don’t want to expend the effort to manage a service that provides that feature.

Those “cloud” services that make things accessible can structure and control what you see and the order. Yes, they leverage the protocol, but they apply their business model on top of that protocol to extract value from the service they provide you.

Again I digress.

The Wastelands are brought about, in part, by ongoing efforts to constructed walled digital ecosystems. To copyright and patent folks into a corner. To flood the “system” with alternatives to open protocols; or to embrace, extend, then extinguish those protocols.

I’m curious in this Wasteland and Fall era how mailing lists, news feeds, and things like ActivityPub can emerge from the ruins.

Shaking the fetters of these dependencies requires awareness of the situation. Something that I would say is collectively emerging amongst a growing percentage of folks.

It also takes awareness and introspection of the purpose of these things. We have an abundance of entertainment options; are these aforementioned channels all entertainment? Or is there something more?

I write and read to better understand myself and to connect with others. Yes, I seek entertainment and diversion as well, but usually with the intention of gleaning something.

The Wastelands and Fall are brought about by an overall systemic goal of isolation. To look at the energy it takes to find your community, thrive in that community, and then with a deprecation notice and sun-setting, lose the “ground” in which the community gathered.


And to James, I have long loved your blog and love of “Old School” gaming with family and friends. I wish you a restful sabbatical from blogging and game publishing. You’re in my Outline Processor Markup Language (OPML 📖) document, so I’ll see you in my RSS feed reader when you return. Cheers and may your dice rolls bring fantastic stories to you and yours!