November 20, 2017

[EN] The control loss of the Internet. About Discord, Gameserver and Stackoverflow.

Read the German version here: Der Kontrollverlust über das Internet. Über Discord, Gameserver und Stackoverflow.

0. I don't want to talk about convenient technology.

Teamspeak is old. Discord is following a perfect strategy and I am using Stackoverflow (too often). I don't want to deny that.

My topic is the centralization from online forums to question-and-answer sites. How internet communities are losing control over their own communication and server they pay for. My topic is the shrinking networking and the way today's platforms are binding the users to their services.

How it used to be: "Come on over!" I've got some neat stuff over here, *points to "Matt's Website"*. What happened: "Actually, follow me over here. It'll be easier for us to reach each other." *points to facebook tower "Welcome, new active users!"* Where we're at now: "Hey, I made some new stuff, can you show it to my followers?" *asking; facebook tower: "Door locks ENGAGED"* Facebook: "Promotion! Boost this post for $10.00 and reach a fraction of your followers"

The Problems 


1. Discord does not offer any server

A Discord "server" is not a server. It is an instance within a big server center (per geographical location). All communication, each login and all messages are being routed through a central location. The only administrators are the employees of Discord, the owner is the company. In addition to that, there is no way to tell if the conversation is private and you cannot verify the identity of your chat partner.

2. Stackoverflow or similar platforms are a shitty way to inform yourself

(I will use Stackoverflow as an example for pretty much all "question-and-answer" websites.)
Stackoverflow primarily gives you answers that seemingly work. It doesn't really matter if they are correct or make the questioner understand the topic. If you're lucky, the code works. Later you notice that you need to re-write parts of it. If you are unlucky, you will have bugs to your program that are really hard to find.

Computer problems cannot be solved easily with those websites. The same error message may have a lot of different causes. A forum allows to the answering side to ask additional questions in order to nail down the problem. A question-and-answer website throws multiple possible solutions at you. One of them works and the rest leaves your system in an undefined state that might cause future problems.

3. The lack of downloadable dedicated servers is killing the online gaming community

Maintaining an online server as an in-game administrator and system administrator is a huge amount of work. The solution is rather simple: you do it together. Mastering daily problems and organizing yourself is a really good exercise for young people. They learn to work together, work with competitors and are being well prepared their real job in the future. On top of that, playing together is way more fun on your own server.
Today more and more developers allow server renting only through licensed providers. Platforms like Steam, Origin (battlelog), BattleNet, etc. are being more and more converted to social networks, making gaming communities obsolete. The results are chats full of trolls and a more rough tone.


1. Teamspeak and Mumble

Teamspeak might be old, but it gives the host full control over their server. If you host Teamspeak yourself, you know exactly what is happening on your server. The identity system is also a good way to verify users.
Mumble is open source and sadly less known and used. I tried convincing my own community into using it but was completely ignored. The main argument against it is "nobody uses it".
A good way to create an alternative to Discord would be an online version of mumble, a way to join a mumble server via one click through a website. Similar to what discord is capable of. This could be achieved by implementing a web server into mumble that provides the functionality.

2. Blogs, forums and wikis

Blogs and forums are still the best way to get help on the internet. A detailed article that describes the topic very well is way more helpful than three lines of code from Stackoverflow. A thread is a perfect way to solve an individual problem, not some question and answer game. In general it is way more helpful to create a blog, participate in a forum or maintain the official wiki instead of getting an e-penis of upvotes. A small advertisement in your blog and an adblocker whitelist request to the reader is more valuable than any Stackoverflow profile.

3. Dedicated server

Sadly we can not do much about this, except contacting the developer and asking them to release dedicated servers. It is common sense to not buy every AAA game that smells like a rip-off. One should support small projects which aim to offer long maintaining and modding support. But don't forget: Indie developers have to earn money in order to feed their families as well.

"Oh hey, a new post on this blog"

To my situation: I am about to finish my bachelor studies and I am currently on a semester abroad in Sweden. I did not find any motivation to continue writing here during the latest two or three years.

If you want, you can follow me here: <-- de-centralized Twitter, yay

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