I think most of us have experienced how hard it is to find personal and human made content on the internet these days. Bot generated content runs galore and SEO weights search results in favour of enterprise pages.
But some of us intentionally make some of our stuff a little harder to find. It's a way to cater to specific interest groups, I guess. Or participating in smaller communities. Sometimes it's about making a statement or just trying out something new.
The irony of this introduction sounding like a corporate "best X of 2022" blog is not lost on me. Maybe I meant it to, or maybe I'm damaged by the common pages I'm served on a daily basis. I don't really know.
Anyways! I dug a little bit (really not much, since these things are already within or adjacent to my social circles) to find semi hidden communities that most people probably haven't heard of.
Alright, this truly isn't hidden in any way. It's a collective term for federated social media, often in the form of micro blogging. Other forms are quickly developing and gaining traction and features. Most of the fediverse is powered by the ActivityPub protocol, which is extensible. Developers and enthusiasts are experimenting quite a bit with it and finding new interesting use cases.
The reason I bring it up here even though it's hardly hidden in any way is that it's not yet overridden by bots and spam. You find people here. Actual meat, blood and bones human beings publishing stuff that they care about. Pretty cool.
Helpful link for those who've never heard of this.
A favourite of mine. You're probably reading this in geminispace, actually. I believe most of my audience is there.
So this is a network protocol and a mark up language.
The term "network protocol" might be unfamiliar to some of you. You see the "http://" or "https://" in your browser's address bar? HTTP is a network protocol, and HTTPS is the encrypted variant of it. Stuff available over these is collectively referred to as "the web". A web browser usually can't read other protocols, although there are many out there. Gemini browsers surf the pages available on "gemini://".
The number of servers and pages (called "capsules") has been growing a whole lot there since the protocol's inception in 2019. The place is seriously sub-optimised for commercial interests in many ways. I love it.
Here's the official docs for the protocol.
If you want to have a quick look at geminispace I have a web-based gemini browser here.
Gopher is another protocol, which is actually older than HTTP but still in use. You'll find a lot of "phlogs" here, which is the gopher equivalent of blogs ("blog" is short for "web log"). These are usually plain text files without hyper links (clickable links).
I don't have more to say about it as I don't surf gopher much. I do know that there's an iOS browser for it simply called "Gopher" which is definitely usable. The default start page in it contains a collection of links to useful starting points.
I love this simple little thing. It's micro blogging in the simplest form possible. Just a text file with a line for every entry. Following someone really just means that you check their file for updates every now and then.
You can check my file for an example, though I suck at updating it.
The best explanation and official documentation is here.
There are even twitter-like platforms that use it.
If you don't remember a time before facebook and twitter you might not know about the glory days of blogs. Back then people "subscribed" instead of "following", and they didn't need an account for every blogging platform to do it. And it's completely free.
This is because of so called "feeds" which are XML files that most blogging platforms actually still produce. Those files aren't meant to be directly read by humans, but they are easily parsed and digested by computers who can then in turn present them as completely readable.
You can use something like feedly to collect the feeds you're subscribing to. I've used feedly for years and it's become an increasingly worse and frustrating experience; I highly recommend that you find some other service. Search for oldreader, for example.
These services intermittently fetch feed files and present them to you. Sometimes in abbreviated forms, sometimes (especially for blogs) as full posts. Do you have a dozen blogs that you check every day? Just follow their feeds in one central place and you'll save a shitload of time. Seriously. When I started using feeds a long long time ago my daily web surfing went down from a couple of hours of checking my regular sites to twenty minutes.
Here's what a feed file looks like. This is the address you should add to your subscriptions list if you want to follow my blog.
So what's hidden about it?
That's the coolest thing. There are pages out there today that publish new posts exclusively in feeds. I love that trend. It's such a statement: "This is what following should be like!" and a charming way of escaping the compulsion as a blog writer to find a good look for your blog.
For realz, check it out.
And here's some more.
Those are the things I can think of right now. Communities for humans, satisfyingly free of SEO, corporate interests, and walled gardens.
I didn't cover the network protocol "spartan" though. It's gemini and gopher adjacent and hasn't gained any real traction that I know of.
I'm sorry that this post reads as those haphazard lists of "best X..." compiled by people who do a short search and just copy paste descriptions into a long useless post designed to rank high on search engines. I guess it's sort of inevitable when writing a list of stuff.
But it was great fun for me finding some of these things.
-- CC0 Björn Wärmedal