Typical flow of communication from different scenarios

Here are the typical flows of communication from in real life to GPG:

Real life

person stands in a crowd, feeling chatty -> person overhears conversation about interesting topic with one or more people nearby -> person walks over and chats with group

Centralized online social systems

person enters in login/password to site -> person forgets password and has to reset -> person logs back into site -> person looks up some horrible hashtags -> person interjects conversation with one more more participants hoping to not get attacked for being misinterpreted

Distributed, encrypted online messaging systems

person reads instructions on how to set up a GPG key pair -> person sets up GPG key pair with a passphrase -> person has to set up a daemon to remember the passphrase for future decryptions from incoming messages -> person adds other public keys of people they want to talk to -> person ends up throwing out computer and just using Twitter

You can’t fit a square peg in a round hole

GPG is good for certain things like SSH, Github, maybe even encrypted email. GPG is good for people who have the privilege to take the time and effort to learn how to set it up and maintain and understand it. GPG is not for the masses. If GPG cannot be for the masses then it is nearly impossible to discover others that have the same interests as you since the only people who are willing to use it and be patient with it for socializing are the ten people who had the time and effort to figure it out.

So as a result, your online social circle in the GPG world is made up of the same people over and over.

Of course, this logic is simplistic but there is some painful truth to it all - the entire point of discoverability is to find others that you would have never met in the first place - the internet should allow you to easily find these people across cities, countries and timezones.

Both those with lots of technical knowledge and those without want two things - to meet others that they can relate to and to have others acknowledge their existence and vice versa. That is all. The more you complicate the process to just get that feedback cycle going, the more unlikely people are going to use your system.

Safety is an issue

Online systems suffer from the ability to attack from a safe distance - using a wall to hide behind to attack others and affect their safe space. In a real life situation, the risk of someone attacking someone else in front of a crowd is not as high as it is on the internet (excluding terror/war situations).

Online systems also suffer from the possiblity that someone could be listening in on private conversations and blackmail or embarrass people - in other words, a violation of privacy. As a result, our reaction is to encrypt but our encryption processes are not meant for this kind of communication.

Our solutions are created within a cultural box of assumptions and ideas

We build things based on what we’ve learned while growing up. We learn from our families, our friends, and generally our interactions in our environments. We learn from what others tell us including the media. We build our logical assumptions through these walls.

What we create from these boxes of thoughts and assumptions is in no way incorrect - it is one way of looking at it. But we cannot keep reusing the same broken models for things that we know don’t work. GPG is one of these things.

Get outside and do something scary and different

Getting out of your comfort zone is difficult. It is scary, and can end up with a lot of uncertainty. Meeting people who think differently from you and have grown up in different boxes of cultural and logical thought can be unsettling. But I can guarantee that it will expand your box and you will hopefully expand theirs.

What’s this have to do with GPG and communication models? Everything. If you’ve been tackling the same problem over and over from various angles (UI/UX/server/encryption/identity management, etc) and you still don’t see the right fit, don’t force the square peg in the round hole. It isn’t meant to be.

Get yourself out there, learn from interesting people to collaborate to find a better solution. Because this one ain’t working.