April 13, 2020 · community

Hubski? Pubski! Part 1 - Adventure

In this short series I want to demonstrate how the practice of technography yields insights into understanding our communities. The first two posts offer insight into the methods, while the third rigorously discusses the results.

This post is divided into three parts:
(1) anecdote and adventure from Pubski (this post)
(2) a network-based exploration of Pubski, and
(3) some formal anthropological/sociological thoughts on Pubski.

What is Hubski?

At somepoint before the design changes at Reddit, a leaving user mentioned a place called Hubski. Upon clicking the hyperlink, the immediate impression was homely, with hints of 90s era "personal-touch" web design. One could also say that its differentiating features were not immediately distinguishable from other aggregator sites. Yet there was a certain clarity that it was alive, breathing, an experimental space, with ideas floating by and changes buzzing around the corner. My experience with the community has been an true adventure and that's something I feel like I don't get to say often enough.

(1/3) Our Hubski Adventure

Let me preface this by saying I was always taught not to talk to strangers on the internet or meet them in real life. Ma, I'm sorry I didn't listen.

During college I really liked to explore and show off the city. I'd offer to guide friends around, embrace changes in new areas and generally tried to get off campus every now and again. So when I saw #meetup with the #philadelphia tag, I followed the link with great excitement.

I'd been posting for a little bit and must've revealed my Philly-based location during an introduction or something. So a few of the regulars reached out @greenitalics and we managed to meetup. I'll share the link next and let it speak for itself.


All done?

Honestly it was one of the most fleeting, bombastic, nerdy and sticker-filled experiences I've ever had. As I remember, it was the middle of midterm season and my academics were not being prioritized well at the time. Thus leading me to stress induced sense of carefree whimsy. We were supposed to meet at WXPN World Cafe Live, however an event there made it difficult to sit quietly and have the beer/conversation that we set out to have. So Steve, having arrived first, moved us around the corner to another bar.

So, what do you look for at a bar when you've only ever seen a username? It turns out, normal people are behind those names! Both Steve and Refugee were kind, nerdy people - happy to share stories and go on a little journey around UPenn's campus. I recall an unusually deep converstation around poetry, from Latin to Elvish. Even some light networking took place as Steve happened to work in an adjacent industry to myself.

I've always found a lot of joy in guiding people around my environment, be that the campus, the neighborhood or the city. Penn's campus in particular has lots of historic and futuristic architecture, from the newish nanotech lab to ENIAC, from Locust Walk to Huntsman Hall. I tried to showcase a variety of the area, juxtaposed with my honest commentary as a resident. There is something nice about the trust in the guide, joined with the awe and wonder that a good guide can impart.

At the end of our walk, the magic began to fade back into reality and we said our goodbyes. I had a few blocks remaining to get home and reflected on what had just happened. Three digital neighbors briefly shared a physical location and the emotional impact felt holistic and satisfying, an urge of rebelious excitement. It felt like I had gotten away with something forbidden. Like something unusually magical had occured, and stone became flesh, and quickly faded in a whirl of leaves and stickers.

(Thanks to Michael Dea for reading drafts of this essay!)