What Makes Gopher Special

This is a collection of posts about what makes gopher special.

Originally published by ckeen at gopher://vernunftzentrum.de/0/ckeen/phlog/2018-03-05-What-makes-gopher-special-for-me.md

Sean Tilly (someone I don’t know yet) has asked on mastodon about the recurring mentions of gopher and what’s so special about it. This got me thinking and these are my reasons why I think gopher is interesting:

It is simple: There are no fancy frameworks to learn, the programs needed to run for hosting gopher yourself is tiny compared to other things on the internet.

Because it is simple and way off the mainstream it encourages a do it yourself attitude. Almost nobody is a consumer of some ‘publishing’ platform, everyone is making it up as they go. And for the people that keep on using it you can see a lot of unique and different styles in creating and presenting content.

So not only in terms of protocols, complexity and software but also in the mindset of its current users, gopher is the anti-thesis to the ‘commercial’ web.

This kind of like feels a lot like when people started typing out HTML pages manually and experimenting with linking styles, how to communicate with others etc.

Gopher is still a lot simpler than that though, kind of like the web how it could have been for people.

So, I ask you, dear reader: What does gopher mean to you?

Originally posted by jynx at gopher://sdf.org/0/users/jynx/dat/20180305.post

On the specialness of gopher (reply to ckeen)

Personally, I love and use gopher for the following reasons:

  • It is clean – no ads, no bullshit
  • It is fast – text screams over the network
  • The citizens are also the creators – not passive
  • High signal to noise ratio
  • As a on-and-off-again Linux user for the past 20 years, I have learned so much from setting up my server and reading phlog posts. I find it a truly valuable resource. (I mainly run FreeBSD now, gopher led me to it)

Ancient tools and utilities have become daily use items, and I like the people. I may disagree with a lot of the politics, but it is not so polarized on gopher that it causes a division. The general lack of comments helps this. A live-and-let-live atmosphere pervades.

Thats what makes gopher special to me in a nutshell.

Originally posted by tomasino at gopher://gopher.black/1/phlog/20180305-what-makes-gopher-special

ckeen recently wrote about what makes gopher special to him. He and jynx nail it pretty well when they talk about the simplicity, creator/consumer dynamic, and signal to noise ratio. I like the intentionality of it all as well. You don’t just accidentally create a gopher hole. You didn’t just click a link to oAuth somewhere and start posting nonsense. You chose to create an account somewhere that offered a gopher server, or you rolled your own. You sat there with the text editor crafting your message. It’s simple, yes, but it’s also much more complicated.

In a sense, the technology itself and its relatively esoteric and retro nature create a sort of gatekeeper. Gatekeeping is generally used in a negative connotation these days, but I think this type of natural systems gatekeeping is different. It’s not prejudiced against a people or person for identity, but for intent, will, and interest. The technology hurdles aren’t that high to say you have to be a coder to make it work. Cat, for instance, has one of the prettiest gopher holes and he does everything by hand using the simplest tools. In place of fancy coding proficiency he has demonstrated excellent interest and will to build Fax Sex.

I love nerdy communities when they’re seething with excitement and intention. I hate nerdy communities when they’re filled with criticism, angst, and envy. Gopher satisfies the first group well and avoids the second. Perhaps it is as jynx says, a side effect of no comments. Perhaps it’s just the community by chance. Maybe it’s a side effect of the manual execution? You can’t do a drive-by trolling on gopher, after all. Once you sink in the time to get set up, you’re part of things.

At the end of the day, I guess it all boils down to content. There’s a lot of people on here that are doing interesting things. Sometimes it’s computer related and sometimes not, but that exceptional drive to “do” things is contagious and I love it.