I’m Still Fundamentally Disappointed in Gopher’s Userbase

Hello from the eMachines Box, lads. Been hiding out off Discord, binge-reading a lot of the Internet Underground archives, wrote a bit last night, has been good.

I don’t have a powerful enough browser on here to make direct WordPress posting work, and while I’ve wanted to post via email for a while now, I learned that WordPress’ built-in email posting is actually deprecated, so I needed a plugin to make that work. But she does work now! I’m gonna keep playing with formatting and things, but really, my goal is to make my posts here a little simpler, like what the Scratchpad started as.

I’ve been back on Gopher a bunch too. My main driver is RetroZilla, which is excellent for simple web and Gopher stuff in a single application. It also hums along quite nicely with 512MB of RAM, which the last XP version of Firefox often doesn’t, so it’s a no brainer browser.

Part of the thing that makes the old web fun is how varied the content can be. A lot of it was written by people who had nothing more than FrontPage to work with, and they made the most of it. I’ve found everything on Wiby. Just now, I hit the Surprise button and ended up at a site about simple boatbuilding. I’m a boy who likes water. This intrigues me.

Gopher is, unfortunately, forever the opposite. It’s opaque to normal people, yet it’s the perfect toy for tech people who have (and I’m trying to be nice here) a personality deficit. They’ve got their server set up with a BSD of some flavor, and perhaps the Gopher is one they wrote themselves (always in a trendy language like Go, of course). Naturally, one of their selectors will be for server temps and uptime. You can expect their top-level menu to have lots of ASCII art, because ASCII art bleeds cool.

And then you hit that dead end. A fuck off toy here (I saw someone make an ASCII art maze on Gopher, where the selectors let you navigate it), a random generator you play with for all of 15 seconds there, and then you’re stuffed. Phlogs are huge in Gopherspace–and they’re never worth the two minutes I spend scanning through them. One guy had a post about how he set up his home server so he could SSH into it from his hometown across the country, and then it didn’t connect to his router over wi-fi properly, so he couldn’t connect in!

What a story Mark.

Fun game. Go find any tilde with Gopher access. (The one I tried this with at least had the decency to only show folks who had updated their home gophermap.) About 20% of them were the default gophermap anyway, just with one or two words changed, because quirky. 30% were blank altogether, usually admitting they had zero use for the fucking thing. 5% were basically just pages advertising their owner’s Gemini server (I’m still not reading it, losers). The other 45% had phlogs, and shock of shocks, were the same phlogs everyone else had. (Cliffnotes of one I just found, courtesy of a Mastodon user of course: some links. “Didn’t do much today.” “Didn’t do much today.”. More links. “Didn’t get much done, but I toyed with Android.”)

I’ve never seen a more stark landscape of computer nerds with zero reason to exist. I see it surprisingly often in MiloHax, which overlaps the computer nerd crowd, the retrogaming crowd, and the Twitch crowd. They’re nearly always lurkers (you wouldn’t lurk if you had a reason to be there, after all), when they do pop up, they usually have a rather blatantly insecure sense of humor, they ask very dumb, answered-many-times-before questions, and sometimes, you get one that tells you very loudly how mean your community is before they storm off and everyone forgets their name immediately.

I think the way the modern, social internet is built encourages people to only pursue “acceptable” interests, which in techie scenes, means technology. If any art is involved, it’s nearly always music, and always the same kinds of generic techno/chiptune/tracker stuff every last one of them pretend to be really into. On the rare occasion I do find a Gopher with some nice photography or a cool premise, I’ll bookmark it, but man, that folder is a bit bare right now.

We were so spoiled on Neocities.

2 Responses to “I’m Still Fundamentally Disappointed in Gopher’s Userbase”

  1. metalynx Says:

    > We were so spoiled on Neocities.

    Genuinely, in hindsight? There was a good amount of variety back on there, even if it was more of a minority. You did have a good handful of non-Linuxy-techie people making sites, at least.
    I think part of Gopher’s problem is it’s just so comparatively inaccessible for anyone *but* Linux geeks-the same types pushing things like Gemini and TLS-that it doesn’t appeal to anyone else. Lack of good software I’d say is one thing, and also the lack of many good ways to publish meaningfully on there without going in and setting up a server, and/or getting a shell account and writing the Gophermaps yourself. Not to mention I think they rather like Gopher being their closed haven of nerd stuff; otherwise, there’d be *some* kind of organizing body to help people understand what it’s all about aside from a Wikipedia page and links to Floodgap on Gopherspace itself (something I still believe the Gopher Repository helps muchly). Gopherspace all seems so non-standardized, partly because.. it is. If only UMN didn’t extinguish the torch so early.
    Yeah, in some ways? We really would need a Kyle Drake to make Gopher fun again. I’ll make sure it’s part of my senior thesis at university.

    P.S. shoutout to Floodgap’s proxy for blocking my copy of Vivaldi for malicious activity

  2. devon Says:

    I remember that e-mail posting still was around not so long ago, but guess gotta axe it because it’s outdated I guess. (Blogger still got it I think though.

    I always wanted to finally peek through some Gopherholes finally, but hearing that people don’t really care about making it full of worthwhile content is a sad thing. Gopher got possibilities but with boring Linux nerds being most of userbase it’s not easy to use them.
    If not this barrier, possibly I would play around with own one since it would be great for serving files or just dumping fun stuff that can be accessed on ancient machines. But now it’s a impossible for me to figure out things how to set up and not fuck up I think. There’s really a need for a simple solution for posting. Maybe this would change something finally.