Improbable Island Message of the Day (MoTD)

Concrete Milkshakes and youtube being awful
Staff2020-07-31 17:45:34 [Permalink]
The new Monthly Memento is the Concrete Milkshake! It's a two-part fast-setting compound in a flask. The catalyst is in the bottom portion, and the top part is liquid. You can drink it to increase your defence through the magic of concrete, or in a fight you can twist the flask, release the catalyst, harden the mixture and bounce it off a monster's head. Usable once daily.

The inspiration for this Monthly Memento is below, and because this whole situation is extremely stupid, here's a content warning for US politics, racism, surveillance capitalism and home maintenance embuggerances which some might find anxiety-inducing. Feel free to skip it if you're not in the mood.

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The front corner of my house is falling the fuck down. This is even more of a problem than it would usually be because the falling-down bit is pretty close to Nerv's room. We're talking big cracks appearing, formerly-repaired cracks reappearing, the basement floor slowly shifting downwards, bad news all around.

Following an afternoon with a laser level and many sighs of resignation as cheaper options were evaluated and eliminated one by one, I'm paying some blokes five grand (!!!) to come round and drive some big hydraulic jacks into the earth and push the house back up to where it should be (or at least stop it from getting worse), which is gonna crack some mortar joints. I've already got a bunch of cracks in my basement, places where the water comes in and you can see daylight through them, but there's not much point in me fixing them until these blokes have jacked up the front corner and made a whole bunch of new cracks.

"Fix 'em all at once," thinks I. Along with, "I'm gonna be five grand in the hole, no way I'm paying a bloke yet more money to come and fix these cracks, I'LL FIX THEM MYBLOODYSELF."

This is where I learn many things about cement and masonry. The first thing I learn, when I search for cement at the hardware store's website, is that there's no such thing as Just Cement anymore, instead there are eleventy bajillion different varieties of grey powdery shit that gets hard when you wet it, and they all get hard in different ways, and it's vital that you get the right one for the job that you're doing, and therefore vital that you KNOW which one to get for which job and how to mix it and what to mix it with, so on I go to - this is where it all goes Pete Tong - youtube.

I learned about invidious recently enough that I don't yet have the muscle-memory to automatically type indivio.us rather than youtube.com in the same way that I automatically type nitter.net rather than twitter.com.

(both of these websites serve a similar purpose - they take content from youtube or twitter and remove all the bad stuff. Autoplay, tracking, spyware, etc. Nitter in particular is great because Twitter has you download a megabyte of spyware and javascript-abstraction and similar useless crap in order to read a kilobyte of text while your CPU sweats bullets and your phone battery begs for mercy, while Nitter will happily show you the exact same tweet in under a second on an old beige Pentium with a Turbo button)

So I'm browsing youtube, I'm logged in to google, and google is watching me watch videos about masonry, and its program goes "Hmm, he likes masonry videos, masons are racist, we can make some money here," and it rubs its hands together and cracks its knuckles.

Yeah, about that.

I've no idea why masons are racist. Maybe this is like taxi drivers. Or maybe, and this is even more sinister, there are tons of non-racist or even anti-racist masons, and youtube only wants to show me the racist ones. I don't know. Youtube thinks that if you work with stone you're an asshole trump supporter, if you work with wood you're almost insufferably wholesome, and if you work with metal you're some sort of indefinable Puckish trickster who keeps everyone guessing. Either way, I skip through the ten minutes of racist rants in a bunch of half-hour-long videos and I learn a few things about stone and concrete.

After a Nerv-naptime of this, half my recommendations are for masonry-related stuff, and the other half is an invitation to madness. Yellow-backgrounded thumbnails with exaggerated-angry faces threaten to tell me The Truth About, ooh, just about anything really - aeroplane contrails, vaccination, COVID-19, Muslims, Jews, Obama, pizzagate, qanon, microchips in your neck from Bill Gates, the earth is flat and the moon is a hologram, you fucking name it, it's crazy all the way down. I'm standing on a slippery precipice staring into a pit of incoherent, gibbering madness, and google - knowing that conspiracy nuts watch youtube videos until five in the morning and earn whole dollars of extra advertising revenue - has a friendly hand pushing between my shoulder blades.

And then, for the next week, I get the same crazy bollocks following me all around the internet. Every ad I see is for bulletproof vests, canned rations, supplies for the upcoming collapse of society, self-published conspiracy-theory ebooks about lizard people.

This is because I wanted to learn how to re-parge a wall. Seriously. This is fucking dumber than anything I've ever put in this game, and this game has lions hiding in sandwiches.

Anyway, you can take any youtube url and replace "youtube.com" with "invidio.us" (or one of the other instances) and get a much less abusive experience out of youtube, which will tide us over until we reach a critical mass of interest in alternative ways of hosting videos such as PeerTube.

Update 2020-08-05: invidio.us is shutting down as of like five bloody minutes after I made this MotD, but don't worry, it's federated. Snopyta has an instance up, and here's the instance list on GitHub. Original MotD follows.

Youtube came about because people wanted to upload videos to the internet, and video hosting is notoriously expensive - if you're a video creator with your own website and you go viral, you'll end up with a big web hosting bill. Youtube gets around this problem by selling ads (and also by directing your attention to videos that keep you on the service longer, so they can show you more ads, and we're back to the conspiracy-youtube mindrot problem again). PeerTube solves the problem by employing some quite clever software - whenever you watch a PeerTube video, your browser sends chunks of the video to other people who are watching it at the same time. So if you get linked from Metafilter or BoingBoing or whatever and you suddenly have a thousand people watching your video at once, your server's only actually sending that video to a few browsers, and they're passing bits of video between them. It's still plenty fast, but the website owner doesn't end up having to pay as much. Works kinda like Bittorrent.

This makes it possible for video hosting to be cheap enough that people can adopt the same sorts of monetization strategies that we've been using for over a decade right here on Improbable Island. Instead of running adverts, spying on all our users, selling your browsing history and personality profiles to any random sociopath with the money to buy them, we just make something people enjoy, ask politely, and trust that some people will give us a fiver. This way of having a website earn its keep is way less complicated and way less abusive to everyone involved, and if you have some favourite youtube channels and some spare cash, it might be an idea to tell your favourite video creators that you'll give them a fiver if they put some videos up on their own website using PeerTube software (which is free, open-source, and likewise donation-supported).

Heck, if this takes off enough, we might even have websites again. Remember those? Christ I'm old.

Have fun,

~CMJ
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