a rickety bridge of impossible crossing

i think i'm interested in stuff wrong

I'm on the fediverse, and I discovered this cool thing called Trunk

The idea is, because social network nodes on the fediverse don't show you posts algorithmically, it can be hard to find new people to follow at first. The federated timeline zips by too fast to be much use, and on a small instance the local timeline can move pretty slowly, and you may not see much that interests you when it does move, especially on the more general-interest instances.

So Trunk is an opt-in list where you @ one of the project admins and they'll add you to lists of people interested in the chosen topics, so new people can (hopefully) find people to follow and don't immediately leave because their timeline's boring.

Pretty cool idea, so I decided to opt-in, but of the 231 interests, I only felt comfortable picking five of them, and three of them I'm not so sure about: I chose Anarchists, Blogging, Retro Computing, Retro Gaming, and Sustainability.

Anarchism and sustainability I'm probably safe, because they're more philosophical, but of the multitude of other things I'm interested in, I'm hesitant to identify myself as "interested" the same way other people are.

Like take blogging. I have a blog that I actively try to update every day. Is that what people expect when they follow someone interested in blogging, or do they expect someone to talk about blogging in a meta sense, e.g. experience setting up adwords, best moderation plugins, strategies for maximizing engagement, relative merits of Wordpress vs. Drupal. Is Drupal still a thing? Maybe if I were someone who's interested in blogging and not just some schmuck with a blog, I'd know that 🤷‍♀️

I'm very interested in old video games. They're almost exclusively the kinds of games I play, in recent days. But is talking about games I'm emulating on my computer what people following a "retro gaming" list expect to see? Or do they want to see people talk about working on their CIB cartridge collections, or their retropi setups?

Same for old computers. I'm interested in old computers for their utility (this entry was partially written on a laptop from 2006) or, if they're too old to be useful, their beauty and simplicity.

I think old, rugged, weird terminal consoles are among the coolest-looking objects on the planet:

old terminal computer

More computers should have a MAIN APP button. Whenever I turn on my computer, the first thing I do is start the main app. Why can't I start it by mashing the forward-space key? [image source]

But I'd never actually own one, because what the heck would I do with it? I'd say "ooh, ahh, neat" and I'd be done with it after a day. I would't know how to do anything useful or interesting with it. If I had space in my home, found one cheap at a goodwill or something, and could afford to pay people to carry my stuff the next time I move house, I might pick it up just because I like looking at it. But until that day comes, I can't justify acquiring useless stuff.

Nostalgia alone isn't enough to get me talking about old-computers-as-objects, either. I had an Apple //c as a kid, I loved that thing, but I'd never own one in the present day, even if I had somewhere to put it. Why would I? Any Apple //c experience I'd want to relive, I can (and have) experience(d) much more easily and reliably through emulation. Another computer is just something else that can break.

But by listing myself as being interested in old computers, that implies that I'm writing about them, right? Which implies that I'm acquiring them? And talking about what I do with them? I don't do any of that, I just post neat links and watch videos, and I'm sure anyone looking for old-computer-likers is already watching the same youtube channels I do. I got nothing to contribute.

Except every once in awhile, I do, because that's how my interests work, like back in December when I came across this post about 9 newly-translated Slovak ZX Spectrum text adventures and did a few scattered posts on fedi about my experience trying them out in emulation (sadly I didn't thread them properly. Now that I have a blog again, I should consolidate what I have into a post and expand on them a bit.)

The ZX Spectrum wasn't a platform much known for its text adventures. They were doing really unique stuff with it, all the way up to 1989. Even "text adventure" is a misnomer, because they all have at least some audiovisual component or use an unusual input method. I think that's cool as hell. The Apple II had a billion text adventures and I only ever remember playing two with graphics: Transylvania and Blood Quest, and Blood Quest was a shitpost

"Pepsi Cola" text adventure intro screenshot

The Pepsi text adventure is way better than Pepsi's game show. Is MIAMI-SOFT still around? Pepsi should hire them.

Granted some of the ZXS games were shitposts, but that's interesting too! A peek into the sense of humor from regular people like me from a completely different culture in a completely different time, using the best creation tools that were available to them. To me that's a thousand times more interesting than "look at this old computer/game console I got",1 or arguing whether FPGA emulation is superior to software.2 But no one else seemed all that interested

If it was just a survey of my interests and not something meant to lead to conversations, I would have immediately checked the box for Podcasts, because I listen to several hours of them a day; but I don't listen to any of the ones I see people talking about. I might be the most dedicated No More Whoppers listener in the world, but I have no idea what the 2022 equivalent of Serial is. I'd rather eat my own leg with horseradish than be obligated to participate in a conversation that begins "I see you listen to podcasts! Do you like Joe Rogan?" 🤮

There are several other examples but the only other one I'll mention now is Programming. I'm very interested in programming, and have dabbled in many languages, but the only reason I want to program is because it's a fun way to make interesting or useful things. I have absolutely no interest in programming for its own sake, or finding elegant algorithms, or finding a clever way to do a boring thing. I don't care how few cycles I can accomplish a task in, or how small my filesize is beyond a certain point. Like sure, I'm interested in efficient software as it relates to sustainability, making sure old computers remain useful (again, writing on a 2006 laptop) and I don't want text editors to be 100MB. But it doesn't matter much to me if a text editor is 1MB or 10MB. Computers are so powerful that even if a program isn't as perfectly optimized as it could be, it still has to be at least two orders of magnitude worse before anyone can tell the difference.

I made software in QB64 because it was an extension of something I already knew pretty well, it made sense to me, and I was able to make what I wanted with it. Mr. Teal was a 3MB program, not because I was shooting for some pure minimalist ideal, but because that's how big it was by the time I was done making it do what I wanted it to do

Despite its tiny size, using a big graphics library for rendering means it used anywhere from 50-100MB of ram. Would I have liked to make that number lower? Of course, but in a world where software resource use is still creeping ever upward for no reason and 8GB is considered the new minimum, I think 100MB is Actually Not That Bad

The other kind of hobby programming is the kind where you're either pro or semi-pro enough to actually collaborate with others and contribute meaningfully to FOSS projects, and god bless them, seriously. I can't imagine a life where the internet is limited to what corporations decide I'm able to do. Projects like mastodon and bearblog, and free creation tools like paint.net and OBS (and heck, even the emulation software that allows me to continue enjoying old things) have made my life much richer.

But working 40 hours a week in a non-programming job doesn't leave me with enough time or energy to develop my skills to the point where I'm confident enough to collaborate with people who really know what they're doing. I don't want any program I make to touch the internet with a 65355-meter pole, because I'm not a raccoon who can promise it's even probably going to be secure.

And if I did work professionally or semi-professionally as a programmer, and was confident enough in my skills to work on the kind of web apps most people care about these days, I can't imagine wanting to do it in my free time too. Maybe my brain is just built different.

"I made a comic-reading application for Windows using a modern BASIC dialect" feels like a kind of programming most people wouldn't even count, but it made me happy. Follow me if you're interested in people being interested in things that make them happy. That's probably my #1 interest 🦝

  1. Unless it's something exceedingly rare and/or totally unknown, but that well is getting drier all the time, and people on youtube like Techmoan and Cathode Ray Dude are way better equipped to acquire and talk about that stuff than I am.↩

  2. There is no difference. They are the same. The only distinction is that the FPGA is a computer someone wants to sell you, when you could be using the computer you already own.↩