Why Gemini Is Essential

by Ploum on 2022-04-25

What are we looking for when we connect to the Internet without a clear goal in mind? And why aren’t we disconnecting as soon as what needed to be done is finished?

Answering this simple question is surprisingly hard.

We are probably looking to be informed and entertained. By "informed", we unconsciously mean "being entertained while having the feeling we learned something". We are also looking to escape both the boredom of having nothing to really do right now and the stress of having too much to do. Last but not least, we are looking for social interactions, social clues that we exist, that we are important and that other people acknowledge our existence or our ideas.

That’s a lot of answers. For most of us, our brains are so used to this strange milkshake of stuff that we do it without thinking. We have our habits, our cravings.

After nearly four months of being officially "disconnected", I should honestly look myself in the mirror and agree that I’m not. As my wife put it : "You are not disconnecting for one year, you are trying to change your lifestyle."

For the first three months, I developed Offpunk, a software that allows me to remain fully connected with only one or two connections per day. Meaning I’m not disconnected. Being disconnected is also nearly impossible if you want to travel. But measuring the time online allowed me to realise how much time is needed to book planes, trains and hotels online. The whole thing is incredibly inefficient. Twenty years ago, we were paying travel agencies to do it for us. Those days, we are forced to do it and spent hours during several days to do all the research, the contacts, the confirmations, the mandatory account creation on platforms.

But I digress.

How I use Offpunk every day

Every morning, I launch Offpunk with the following command (which is in a shell script called "do_the_internet.sh"):

offpunk --sync --assume-yes --cache-validity 51840

The main effect of this command is to go through 50 gemini capsules and 50+ http RSS feeds that I added to my "subscribed" list. Each new entry is then automatically added to my offpunk "tour".

Sipping my tea, I enter offpunk and launch the tour, hitting " to cycle through those entries. I often read immediately what is in front of me then hit "t" to go to the next.

When an entry is a bit longer or looks especially interesting, I add it to my "toread" list with the following command:

add toread

During the day, when I’m bored, when I want to read something, when I want to connect, I simply go to this list and select an article to read.

list toread

Once I finish it, I type "archive" to get rid of it. When I have nothing to read in Offpunk, I watch through the window and take a book. The reflex is already so strong that I decided to change the cache-validity parameter to last several days. This will force me to have nothing new to read during several days.

Gemini or the Web? I don’t care anymore

Because of the aforementioned workflow, offpunk has completely replaced newsboat, my RSS reader. Offpunk display content better, with pictures and I can follow links. Everything is in offpunk except my emails (which are in neomutt but I’ve a prototype to handle them in Offpunk…).

Most of the time, I have no idea if what I’m reading is Gemini, web or Gopher. Both have been merged and are now looking like Gemini.

There’s a simple way to know if I’m reading a lot of Gemini or Web. Looking at my "archives" list which contains the last 200 archived items.

list archives
!grep gemini|wc -l
!grep http|wc -l

The number of gemini resources is usually between 40 and 90 while, logically, the number of http resources is between 160 and 110. This means that while I’m mostly reading http stuffs, Gemini is far from being useless. Another lesson is to look at the date when item 200 was archived. This allows me to see that I’m reading and archiving, on average 10 items per day.

Sometimes, a few gopher items appear in the list but they are quite rare. I’ve not found a gopherhole I wanted to follow which didn’t have a Gemini mirror. Recommendations are welcome.

Gemini is my most important connection

You could say that, with my workflow, I could completely bypass Gemini and do everything through the web as most Gemini capsules are also on the web.

But I realised something strange. Even if there are no obvious clues that I’m on a web or gemini page (like an image or an inline link), I can "feel" it.

Gemini posts are a lot more structured. They are written. HTML pages are sketched. Letters are mixed to form words then multiple artefacts are added to attract attention : useless images, formatting, change of format, excerpts, useless links in middle of texts.

HTML pages are like puzzles you have to reconstructs to try to understand what the person is talking about. And, on most occasions, there’s nothing to be found. The writer is only trying to attract attention, not to say something.

Take any book in your library. Go through pages. No formatting except than titles. Every picture is there for a strong reason. No funny meme. Yes, there are links (those are called "footnotes" in a book) and it is widely known that a book with too much footnote is hard to read. As soon as I realise that footnotes in a book are more than simple sources, I feel betrayed. Either I read them, which is cumbersome or I ignore them and feel I’m missing something.

Writing is hard because you never know how people will understand what you are trying to convey. They add their own culture, their own experience. But at least, there’s an agreement about the meaning of words. As soon as you add formatting, images or complex structuring, you add information for which there’s clearly no shared nor agreed meaning. You add pure noise to the music, hoping to make it louder.

All HTML artefacts, in emails or on webpages, give you the false impression of being clearer while, on the opposite, you are making things more confusing for the reader.

Gemini is like plain-text emails : essential tools for a writing culture.

That’s also why I like so much the Gemini-sphere : every single gemlog out there is written. Like a text. Every gem post convey a clear idea. Every single one is written well enough to create a connection between the writer and the reader. It feels personal. Every single one is useful. None is trying to get artificial attention with the nasty tricks which are the norm on the web.

Gemini is more than important. Gemini is essential to save the writing culture, the exchange of ideas. Intellectuals, academics and people who care about the content instead of the form should all write on Gemini.

Mirroring contents on the web is fine, of course. But the act of writing Gemini first is an act of writing resistance.

If my 4 months of disconnection taught me that I’m not really disconnected, that I’m more connected than ever thanks to Gemini, maybe all those people spending their life on their phone, browsing mindlessly are the disconnected ones.

As a writer and an engineer, I like to explore how technology impacts society. You can subscribe by email or by rss. I value privacy and never share your adress.

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