2023-11-18 twitter.com/gabriel_export - on paths


Gabriel @gabriel_export • 14h

When I think about what the web is, I see paths. A vast interconnected system of paths where hyperlinks are the signposts signaling where the path is headed next, and the browser is a pathfinding device like a compass or map that gives you some tools to navigate the paths.

All kinds of things have paths: roots, branches, synapses, mycelium, planetary orbits, webs, networks, rivers, the vascular system. And they have important functions like connection, communication, distribution of resources, structural integrity, boundary definition, navigation.

But sometimes they just exist as a mechanism for ecological balance. I did a lot of traveling the U.S this year, especially a lot of National and State Parks. By far my favorite Parks were the ones that had tons of understated side-paths off the main trail.

These side-paths were easy to miss but rewarding to follow. Sometimes they would lead to a completely unique view or experience of the park. I have fond memories of some massive hollowed out trees, rocks carved with Native American petroglyphs, and winding narrows

Some of these side-paths were overgrown and unofficial, and many of them were "desire paths".

Desire paths are paths that are formed by their continued usage, co-built by each person who walks them. They reflect the needs and desires of the people who walk them as well as the flaws and inefficiencies of the design of the environment.

In the early days of the "Information Super Highway" human-curated co-built information paths were a necessity; things like link directories, webrings, and physical books of the "top websites" were like community maps.

Eventually, however, search engines took the burden of curation off of us, and we lost the art of collective path-building.

On the modern web, algorithms mostly build our information paths for us like SEO with search engines and social media recommendation algorithms.

Building and navigating your own information paths still feels so low fidelity and under-developed to me as it's mostly just following people on social media, subscribing to newsletters/RSS feeds, or tagging bookmarks.

Building, curating, and finding paths with others is even more sorely lacking. Wikis are great path maps of links but result in wars for singular perspectives instead of allowing for plural ones.

Reddit and other forums feel siloed and isolated with little cross-pollination of topics, ideas, and information. Instead of connecting our paths, we've seemingly been okay with just having disconnected conversations in comment sections.

So what do we do? We need to make it easy to co-build paths together, we need tools for collective path-building that enables the formation of direct and indirect coordination via stigmergic "desire paths".

Whether that's a protocol, some excellent UX, ethical Al-assistance, or something else, it must be un-capturable, and it must be effortlessly usable.

(Here's a few pics of some paths I followed this year ...)

Looking forward to exploring these ideas with Sensemaking Scenius!
@getbloop @maceagon

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