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Off the Horizon

By Signal 11 in Culture
Mon Jan 15, 2001 at 09:57:37 AM EST
Tags: Culture (all tags)

The past few years have been turbulent. Less than seven years ago it was inconceivable that the internet would be used as anything but a tool by researchers. Now fully one in ten businesses in the United States are based in information technology. Over half of all businesses (in 1998!) were selling their goods online. Rapid commercialization has bred discontent in this disenfranchised computer geek, who now wonders if there's any fun left in this industry.

It wasn't too long ago that I found computers to be the most incredible tool I had ever used. I could play games online with other people, have access to information archives so vast I had no worries about ever finding what I wanted to know, I could build computer programs and tools using a variety of customized applications. I could create online worlds to live in, or build fantastically efficient algorithms to magically dance before my eyes, performing functions that would have taken teams of mathematicians years of work in mere minutes.

I was happy - as an outcast in school, I gravitated strongly to computers, they were my friend when I had no friends. I made friends online, debated with both experts an amateurs on any topic I wished, and reveled in my "l33t" quake skillz. I was here before the hype, before the commercialization, and before there were rules. I know the true potential of the internet - it's humanity, connected in a way that even after decades of being online I still have trouble fully grasping. Computers aren't online - we are. Breaking down social barriers, improving the flow of information, and creating a society where knowledge is power, and knowledge is available to all.

That society never materialized. If you listen carefully, you can still hear the whispers of it online, on websites far off the beaten path - like this one, in little used channels on IRC, hidden chatrooms, and amongst old-time computer geeks, what few are left. The internet for me is an unrealized dream, victim of a world which embraced it too quickly, became afraid of it, and sought to destroy it.

The world is winning. Within the next few years, all traces of the dream I once saw, and lived in, will be gone. Locked behind proxies, firewalls, and censorware. Information will still be available - for a price. Intellectual Property, copyright, and patent laws will keep all but the brightest and most gifted amongst us from access to free information. Linux is a wonderful OS, and it is free, but only the technically adept amongst us can use it - for the rest, they are condemned to commercial software. I can't spend my time defeating copy protection - there are more productive things I can do with my time.. and free software is another unrealized dream... it struggles on, but it can't seem to reach the finish line, because other people are always moving the finish line farther down the road.

Increasingly, I have been unmotivated to contribute to the internet, or to computers in general. I don't keep up on the latest hardware, I stopped visiting bluesnews years ago, I don't post as much to online forums, and I'm increasingly uninterested in the newest wiz-bang feature. To me, it's all marketing. There is no joy in the commercialized internet.

I've started to look into other hobbies - electronics, physics, chemistry, and mathematics. I've rekindled my interests in areas outside of information technology like aerospace. For me, computers are no longer interesting - it is no longer a frontier for me. It's been colonized by marketing and commercial interests... it's a tool for the ignorant majority and no longer appeals to me. To me, it's like the vision of the ten thousand channel television where there's still nothing good on.

I've been burned out before. I can take a break, come back in a couple weeks, and feel better. I've been depressed before too. I know how both of these feel, and this is something new. It's a pervasive feeling that some hidden force is at work that I can't fight against which is slowly changing the face of a virtual world which was once my playground.

I'm not sure why I'm submitting this to kuro5hin, I doubt everyone wants to hear the words of a disenfranchised geek - especially those that are still marvelling over the latest 2.4 kernel release, or have recently picked up Perl. For them, the 'net is still a blank easel and anything is possible. But to me, it's cold and uninviting. I once thought you could be creative online, be innovative, make a difference. Now, I'm not so sure... with all the laws and rules being imposed on the internet, my dream of a free and egalitarian online world has all but been smashed to pieces.

Maybe it's time to logoff and face reality. In retrospect, it was inevitable.


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Off the Horizon | 94 comments (71 topical, 23 editorial, 0 hidden)
I once felt that passion... (2.93 / 16) (#1)
by boxed on Sun Jan 14, 2001 at 09:02:44 PM EST

I burned for the discussion on Fidonet once. Then the discussions on IRC caught me, then the discussions here on k5. Fidonet died because the users abandoned it slowly. IRC died (like usenet) when it got flooded by users who did nothing but yell "me too!". I fear the same is happening to kuro5hin as we speak. Thank god I now have friends IRL I can have discussions with. I just feel sorry for all those new geeks growing up in a world where it is so hard finding community online.

Build your own. (3.00 / 3) (#9)
by rebelcool on Sun Jan 14, 2001 at 09:48:19 PM EST

Build your own community. It's coming. I call it COG. The Machine, demo site

(yeah, its a plug for my site, but hey - the software for it is going to change some things)

COG. Build your own community. Free, easy, powerful. Demo site
[ Parent ]

technically I have :P (3.00 / 2) (#15)
by boxed on Sun Jan 14, 2001 at 10:07:59 PM EST

I wrote my own online forum system for my community of IRL friends. It is really good for such a small group as us (30 people or so) and it works fine but I do miss the online input. One tends to talk things over very good with your irl friends, so much so that the amount of discussion drops after a while.

[ Parent ]
IRC dead? (3.00 / 3) (#22)
by MrMikey on Sun Jan 14, 2001 at 11:03:31 PM EST

I've been active in the same IRC channel for the last two years. It's quite alive, though I do worry about Undernet and the bastards engaged in a DDOS attack upon it.

[ Parent ]
IRC (none / 0) (#26)
by mattyb77 on Sun Jan 14, 2001 at 11:25:15 PM EST

I've spent a lot of time on IRC and the only place I've found to be worth my time is irc.2600.net. I hang out in #macintosh and have found that the participants actually talk and are capable of discussion things intellectual. It is much more interesting and fun than SlashNet (or whatever it is called now).

"I bestow upon myself the `Doctorate of Cubicism', for educators are ignorant of Nature's Harmonic Time Cube Principle and cannot bestow the prestigious honor of wisdom upon the wisest human ever." -- Gene Ray, the wisest human ever
[ Parent ]
irc.2600.net (none / 0) (#37)
by dice on Mon Jan 15, 2001 at 03:29:25 AM EST

i agree completely. irc.2600.net is full of a lot of stupid people sure, but there are some people around who actually know what they're talking about.

having people there into crypto, or math, or whatever, and able to talk about it intelligently is a damn cool thing.

[ Parent ]
not really dead per se... (none / 0) (#62)
by boxed on Mon Jan 15, 2001 at 02:42:23 PM EST

...but the good channels are practically impossible to find, and when you find them chances are a few other people find them too and then it'll soon be a dead channel anyway.

[ Parent ]
FidoNet (4.00 / 2) (#23)
by mattyb77 on Sun Jan 14, 2001 at 11:16:16 PM EST

I think you're right about FidoNet, but I'd say that the main reason that people left the network was because the Internet came along and offered so much more.

I used to run a BBS here in Indianapolis called Guru Meditation and was a part of Net 231. Once I discovered the Internet (through a dial-up shell account), there was no going back for me. I ended up hogging up my telephone line and eventually took the BBS down. Within a few years all of the folks I knew in the local FidoNet had left and started ISP's or started working for them.

"I bestow upon myself the `Doctorate of Cubicism', for educators are ignorant of Nature's Harmonic Time Cube Principle and cannot bestow the prestigious honor of wisdom upon the wisest human ever." -- Gene Ray, the wisest human ever
[ Parent ]
Of Things Past (2.70 / 10) (#8)
by mattyb77 on Sun Jan 14, 2001 at 09:46:16 PM EST

It is pleasing to know that I'm not the only one that feels this way. I don't know if this is due to the lost novelty of the Internet or if it is because everyone and their mother has a computer and is online. There used to be something very cool and "underground" about being a computer geek. Now anyone can go buy themselves an MCSE and get a job administrating servers.

"I bestow upon myself the `Doctorate of Cubicism', for educators are ignorant of Nature's Harmonic Time Cube Principle and cannot bestow the prestigious honor of wisdom upon the wisest human ever." -- Gene Ray, the wisest human ever
what does that have to do with being a 'geek'? (3.00 / 1) (#68)
by ChannelX on Mon Jan 15, 2001 at 06:33:01 PM EST

I don't get your point. Sure anyone can go buy themselves an MCSE (I've seen it happen to be sure) but how does that make them into a 'geek' (whatever *that* really means)? I know the point you're trying to make but it just doesn't wash.

[ Parent ]
You are but a grasshopper, grasshopper (3.80 / 25) (#10)
by xdroop on Sun Jan 14, 2001 at 09:50:12 PM EST

Ah, siggy, only on the internet could someone who has been here seven years pass themselves off as an oldtimer. I was here before Quake, before Netscape, before an unusable Usenet, before any of that. Why, I remember when Telnet was the way you got around and the biggest problem we faced was FTP archives which tried to make sure your connecting system was in the same domain-name space as your supplied email address and gopher survers which vanished unexpectedly. But I am not a veteren, and certainly not the veteran you profess to be. There were those who came before me, the true greats.

You might as well leave, grasshopper -- you were never really here, were you.
xhost +

...ah, the smell of telnet.. (4.40 / 5) (#40)
by kingcnut on Mon Jan 15, 2001 at 05:13:58 AM EST

I love a good reminisce just as much as the next geek, my initiation in networked life was by telnet-ing into the only externally connected computer in the university. Then I'd start a gopher session, memorising the particular sequence of links that would bring me out of JANET and to a computer in Bath that offered telnet-to-anywhere so I could get some good MOO time in. Hehe the joy of xmodmap remapping that pesky delete key ^H^H^H indeed!
It wasn't just the internet that was better then though, everything was better, beer was cheaper, drugs were stronger, music played continually to accent and enhance the mood, gentle lighting played around the corners of my imagination, I could leap entire buildings in one stride, ... hey hang on, that's my dreams not my memories ... well, they both live in the same place now anyway (my head).
In brief retrospect it's not that things used to be better in the past it's just that things in the present suck badly. If I could apply the same filters on the disappointingly realistic present that I do on the past I'd be one happy bunny.
Funny how a one line thought turns out sometimes.

[ Parent ]
next great thing (3.08 / 12) (#12)
by radar bunny on Sun Jan 14, 2001 at 09:55:56 PM EST

I think a lot of us are waiting for the next great thing to come along. Of course, its ironic that we built the last great thing --- and have the tools to build the next one. Its just--- we're still fond of the last one. It was a great thing -- but you know what -- it still is. ;)

To me... (3.09 / 11) (#18)
by Wah on Sun Jan 14, 2001 at 10:27:49 PM EST

..it's like the vision of the ten thousand channel television where there's always some geek on (sorry) whining about how it's not the way he would want it.

I voted +1, but probably would change it now. The word "depressed" belongs only in your diary, unless you've got some deeper insight or curiousity about it.

And, dang it, if you have these wonderful abilities and this wonderful vision, why aren't you sharing it? Why aren't you building it to be the way you want it? Why must you continue to be so negative about it? Am I responding to yet another troll?
Fail to Obey?

Thing is... (3.92 / 14) (#19)
by slaytanic killer on Sun Jan 14, 2001 at 10:35:29 PM EST

You need to log out. The online world is changing -- but the point is that you were supposed to change along with it.

The hidden assumption many made was that they could exist outside of the mainstream world for a while, and the mainstream would eventually see how liberating that world is, and join it. But of all people, Americans should understand this never happens; people just barge into other peoples' cultures and tame them into inhabitability. "The butcher-bird will nest where it wants," and leave the rest to live on some reservations.

What should Veterans of the Online World have learned? To change the world before the inevitable happens. In a position of superior information, the Veterans should have learned how the world works and what changes need to be made.

I disagree (4.54 / 31) (#20)
by Dacta on Sun Jan 14, 2001 at 10:49:11 PM EST

I'm still optimistic about the 'net, and I've been around for just as long as you (since '94).

Sure it has changed, and a lot of it is for the worse. Spam, banner adds, the death of Usenet, these are all things that annoy me.

On the otherhand I remember waiting around in computer labs at night so I could use a ftp server when it wouldn't be overloaded with a whole 5 users.

I remember the stuggles of trying to find an email address I could use when the university holidays were on.

Look at what we have now - cheap bandwidth, domain names for less than $20 a year, free web hosting, access to (free) information that we couldn't have dreamed of 5 years ago.

And it's not over yet! 18 months ago (or so) Napster appeared, and changed the music business forever - dragging musinc companied into the 90's with it.

Five years ago people said "there's no why to fit an entire movie on a CD". Now people trade ISO DivX images of the latest movies, and there's nothing anyone can do about it.

Sure, it seems that all the laws are against us, and that no one is listening. But then you find out that in some places in the wider press, hackers are being called the last of the true democratic optimists.

Fuck the rules. A very wise politician said once that "a law that is ignored is a bad law". Just because a few insignificant companies like Microsoft and Sony want to control your thoughts, you're going to give up? Fuck that man!

Don't you remember the rush you felt when Oracle was released for Linux? Remember thinking take that Microsoft (back when MS was relevent)?

And now it getting really interesting. With broardband internet comming to a suburbian house near you, and no real way to stop people using it, there is no way I'm getting bored, now!

You think those "you can't use this connection to run a server" licences are stupid, right? Well, Jimbo up the street isn't even going to read it - he's just going to run his FreesterNet server/client to share his movies with his friends - and if someone closes him down, he'll just go to the competition.

Think of the new classes of applications that need writing - stuff that detect when your computer is on, and uses it as a server, but when it is off redirects to a cheaply hosted static server. Stuff that allows discussion threads to flow between physical web servers as they come online and then disappear, like a huge, dynamic WikiWikiWeb. Kuro5hin-like submission queues for stories, artwork, music, movies - anything you want, but instead of being submitted to a website, they are submitted to a P2P shared content index - like a peer-reviewed Napster. My god - my head is busting with ideas, and you think you are bored!

Sure, there will be heaps of crap around. But there is new and exciting stuff, too - and most of it still needs inventing.

You GO, Dacta! (3.83 / 6) (#21)
by MrMikey on Sun Jan 14, 2001 at 11:00:20 PM EST

I've watched the personal computer come into being over my lifetime. When I was born (1962), there was no such thing. Now, I sit before a dual PII 450 MHz machine that is nowhere near cutting edge, yet has more power than the engineering workstations I used in a modern university EE lab a few years ago. I still marvel at the fact that my machine runs programs as screensavers that couldn't even run on a machine of ten years ago. Hell, I remember noticing when companies began putting their URLs in their advertising - that was incredibly significant, and had both good and bad effects.

Don't like the way things are changing? Work to make them better. One person can make a difference.

[ Parent ]

The world doesn't owe you an internet (4.04 / 22) (#24)
by Spinoza on Sun Jan 14, 2001 at 11:16:22 PM EST

I remember the internet seven years ago. Actually, it would be truer to say I remember the web, because that's all I knew at the time. I'm sure a lot of people are in a similar boat. It was another two years before I heard of venerable technologies like telnet, FTP, IRC, etc. I also remember what the web was like.

If you cast your mind back, you'll remember too...the web was mostly full of vanity pages where people described themselves or their hobbies. The pages were not very interesting, and seldom worth revisiting. There were countless pages about one TV show or another, but there were few pages that were worth a second look. It's took years for the web to mature. It took investment in time and money. Commercial interests form part of this equation. The web was slow. It wasn't that pretty to look at. Most pages struggled to reach the standard of a good geocities page. These are the "golden days" of the internet that you are yearning for?

I don't think it's the flavour of the old-school internet that you are missing. Sure the internet is being used commercially. Believe it or not, it was being used for commercial interests for years before the web was introduced. It has grown with commerce, mostly business-to-business commerce, rather than the more visible, trendier, but ultimately less successful e-commerce everyone was so captivated by. Even though the internet is full of commercialism, you can't ignore the possibility that there just might be more useful stuff on the net now than there was before, as a larger user base has brought more variety to the net. (Okay, more annoying noise as well.)

I think a big part of what you're missing is the feeling of freshness about the net. It has lost that sense of being exciting and new, and become ubiquitous. Seven years ago, time spent on the net was probably valued more, because you probably didn't have the opportunity to be online as often, or for as long as you do now. Familiarity breeds contempt.

Seven years ago, people were talking about the web being the coming thing, the great new technology, that would change the world. Here we are today, and these predictions have mostly come true. The internet has changed the world (well, the western world, anyway), it has become a fact of daily life, and you're complaining? Did you think that the whole world was going to log on the the net to read, (as Homer Simpson puts it), "what some geek thinks about Star Trek"?

PErsonal observation. (3.00 / 13) (#29)
by Wiglaf on Sun Jan 14, 2001 at 11:39:40 PM EST

As a 21 yr old Comp Sci Geek at Latech I may not be an old timer. I am not the hottest coder in my class and after noticing that a good deal of my class mates where in CS because they could make 40-60K starting. It sickened me. My first computer was in 4th grade but my discovery of the internet wasn't until freshman year in high school.

You have to admit that the poster does bring up some intresting facts. All the major developers and visionaries of the "net" are getting to be up in the years. How many of them were in it for the money or stock options. I know that this is a broad generalization but it seems that they had other motivations besides money. There was a purpose that is lacking. Look at the rich history that had been produced. Capn Crunch, the development of unix and other OS's, Usenet, etc.... Now it just seems that anybody can get on and add more noise.

I have even noticed that IRC has gotten rougher. I have watched people purposly give bad advice for sheer cruelty. What the hell? What happened to being nice for niceness sake.

Paul: I DOMINATE you to throw rock on our next physical challenge.
Trevor: You can't do that! Do you really think Vampires go around playing rock paper sissors to decide who gets to overpower one another?
I shouldn't reply to myself but irony is abound (3.00 / 3) (#32)
by Wiglaf on Mon Jan 15, 2001 at 12:22:47 AM EST

Not 5 min after I posted I check my email and new line cinema has decided to send some spam my way. 21 msg's in fact. All for 13 days. I guess the web will always be about money and commercial entities.

Paul: I DOMINATE you to throw rock on our next physical challenge.
Trevor: You can't do that! Do you really think Vampires go around playing rock paper sissors to decide who gets to overpower one another?
[ Parent ]
In it for the money (3.50 / 2) (#48)
by ucblockhead on Mon Jan 15, 2001 at 11:25:35 AM EST

I am not the hottest coder in my class and after noticing that a good deal of my class mates where in CS because they could make 40-60K starting.

When I was in college, I did a lot of tutoring, and saw a lot of this. Most of those people won't make it, and the few that do, won't last in this career. More than any other job, if you don't like to code, you won't be able to cut it. Better to find something you like to do.

This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]

Coding skills. (none / 0) (#94)
by Wiglaf on Mon Jan 22, 2001 at 10:42:42 AM EST

I misrepresented myself when talking about my "mad skills". I think too much in the box. When I write code it will not have a case wear it fails. It may take n more steps then it should but it is highly fault tolerant. My best friend on the other hand..... well I have seen him write some very elegant code. Shit that makes mine look ugly. This guy is good. He shit works and is usually an off the wall approach that just seems to work.

Paul: I DOMINATE you to throw rock on our next physical challenge.
Trevor: You can't do that! Do you really think Vampires go around playing rock paper sissors to decide who gets to overpower one another?
[ Parent ]
I know how that goes. (3.50 / 2) (#67)
by Requiem on Mon Jan 15, 2001 at 06:28:19 PM EST

I'm a cs major as well, and see a lot of people that are in it for the money. The money is nice, and was a minor consideration when deciding on my major, but it boiled down to this: would I want to spend most of my life doing computer-related work?

Hell yes.

I've been using computers since I was six or seven or so...my mother bought an old Xerox 8086 to do her Ph.D thesis on, and I played around with DOS and WordPerfect like there was no tomorrow. When I was 14, I learned how to program (in QBasic. How many countless people had QBasic as their first?), and was addicted. I loved it. I still do; Java and Perl have re-kindled my love of programming (which was bludgeoned by Eiffel and Prolog).

I'm in a somewhat similar situation: while I'm a fairly decent coder (my code is well-structured, doesn't resemble alphabet soup, etc. all the good things), I'm none too great at math. I get by with average grades, but it's disheartening when it takes you longer to grasp what the people around you get at once. And, since I'm an honours student, I have to do the math classes that the honours math students do. Brilliant. ;)

All in all, though, I wouldn't trade this for the world. Well, I've always considered an English degree, but that's my fallback.

And yes, I agree with you about IRC. I'm not too fond of it...I've seen people answer questions with "rm -rf /", which appals me. Assholes.

[ Parent ]
I agree. (4.36 / 19) (#30)
by pb on Sun Jan 14, 2001 at 11:50:04 PM EST

Whatever you say about Siggy, elitism, or whatnot, I hope we can agree on a few things around here, even if we're just talking about the seven year period when the web was born. I don't know if I can explain how attitudes have shifted over time, but I hope I can explain my attitude, because I don't think it has changed that much.

I've always had an attitude of wonder towards computers, in more ways than one. I've always been amazed at their capabilities, and wondered what they could do. I learned to always read the documentation, lest I screw something up.

I've always been in awe of computers, and treated them with respect. They are amazing, and we shouldn't screw up what we have. I tried to contribute to BBSes, I enjoyed posting to USENET, (mostly comp.lang.pascal.misc back then) and I was stunned by the web. I love Operating Systems and Programming Languages. I'm very impressed by demos and mod files, and the work that goes into them.

Now what do we have that I can't stand? Basically it all boils down to a lack of respect. I don't like lusers who flood chat rooms, and we've always had people like that. I also don't like the lusers that flood USENET or the web or my mail spool with spam, but we haven't always had that. Of course you can get away with it, but it boils down to a lack of respect, and creates a lack of trust.

Why is it that no one runs finger or talk anymore? Because they're services that aren't trusted anymore. Sure, they're handy, but that's just tough; telnet is essentially being phased out now, and ftp is next, both to be replaced by ssh, or hopefully something like it.

Basically, lusers that flood the net with spam or try to h@X0r boxes are to blame. But some of these lusers are corporations or governments now. And all of them have no respect, either for the 'net, or for the people on the other end, or both. I often can't have a decent conversation on an open forum unless I specifically invite people there, and make sure the rest of the world doesn't know about it. For that same reason, slashdot is dead and kuro5hin doesn't necessarily look too healthy.

So, yes, lusers and newbies kill what we hold dear. I consider that to be a statement of fact, and not elitist. It is our job to educate the newbies and banish the lusers. If that creates a somewhat ingrown, strange culture, I wouldn't be surprised. But at least we can have a decent conversation. That's why newsgroups have FAQs, guidelines, and enforcement of those guidelines. That's why people get flamed. And that's why much of the 'net can end up sucking.

We don't need better spam filters; we need real consequences for the guy at the other end. I bet he wouldn't spam people if he got flamed for it, or had pizzas and magazines sent to him. That's why everything is somewhat open on kuro5hin; I think it helps, but only to a certain extent. You can't have a good net without good netizens.

...mostly, I just wish the section on netiquette in my Computer Ethics class could be inforced on more parts of the net nowadays. :)
"See what the drooling, ravening, flesh-eating hordes^W^W^W^WKuro5hin.org readers have to say."
-- pwhysall

Re: Accountability (3.50 / 2) (#50)
by CyberQuog on Mon Jan 15, 2001 at 11:35:32 AM EST

The only problem with being totally acountable, is that there can be a case where an employee of a super secret government thingie, needs to post something anonymously; as he feels it is his moral duty to do so. We should not abandon anonymous access because a few are abusing it, we need to think of ways to stop the spammers and hax0rs, while still letting people post something anonymously if the need arises.

[ Parent ]
Possible... (3.00 / 1) (#71)
by pb on Mon Jan 15, 2001 at 07:08:03 PM EST

Well, send an anonymous e-mail to the site admin, or surf the web through a proxy, and sign up for an account that you use for all your secret stuff. Or ssh to another machine and surf the web from there. Or do that *and* set up a proxy...

Anyhow, there are lots of options here; too bad privacy isn't always easy to get online...
"See what the drooling, ravening, flesh-eating hordes^W^W^W^WKuro5hin.org readers have to say."
-- pwhysall
[ Parent ]
Les than seven years ago? (4.35 / 14) (#33)
by mihalis on Mon Jan 15, 2001 at 12:44:15 AM EST

Less than seven years ago it was inconceivable that the internet would be used as anything but a tool by researchers.

Huh? About 6.5 years ago you could buy a t-shirt from Wired on-line. It would have to be 10-15 years ago that it was inconceivable for commerce and other non-research to invade the internet, if even then. Don't forget the first email worm was 12 years ago. I don't think that really qualified as research even if the guys dad worked for No Such Agency.

That quibble aside, I personally think the degree that one agrees with this (death of the internet dream) is influenced by how much you believed the hype over the reality. Perhaps the signal to noise ratio has gone down, but that is because of the hugely increased amounts of both. If you survey the internet as a whole (as much as that is possible) there is now a giant amount of crap on it, but one persons crap is another persons collectable. Overall, many, many more people are being served by this monstrous, incredible creation.

Here is some good news from the internet for me :

Correspondence with most of my friends and family is much better than it was before the internet.

My access to news about music, films, hi-fi, cameras and other things I might want to buy is incomparably better. I find out more about good new products, good 2nd-hand stuff, things to avoid, price comparisons. Overall I am more comfortable spending my money when I do some research on the internet first. This may be true for lots of people and perhaps this has helped the economy in a lot of countries.

I run a server and host some content for friends in other countries. This service was basically unavailable before the internet, certainly for free. To do this I have had to do things like setting up sendmail, BIND, IP masquerading, tape backups etc and have had a lot of fun and learnt a lot.

When I need a form, I can almost always find it on-line and print it myself. No waiting, no hassle.

There are many more. Surely your list is just as long or longer.

Yes of course I hate many of the crass commercialisms of the Internet, but they are present in most walks of life these days. The challenge and the pleasure is to build and/or participate in the forums (fora?) that do suit you.
-- Chris Morgan <see em at mihalis dot net>

Old times not better, just less skeptical (4.38 / 13) (#34)
by lucas on Mon Jan 15, 2001 at 01:42:09 AM EST

I started out around 1990 on the Cleveland Freenet. I had to call long distance, but it was often worth it just to be able to read Usenet and check out the prices for used equipment. Plus, I had an actual e-mail address and IRC access.

What is more positive today has to do with the medium itself. Better bandwidth, cheaper access, the dissemination of wireless "remote" net access. You don't have to own a T1 - T3 or some sort of other leased line to run a server today.

The negative aspects come from the complexity of the Internet. Before, it was simply people like some of us here who just wanted to hack around, learn new things, and maintain our computers. The Internet was based around this principle. Early Internet access was just a dialup shell account... to be able to use PPP was ridiculously expensive and sometimes slow.

Some people remember the Internet as a much nicer place before. I'm not sure this was the case; I think people were pretty similar in this sense.

What I think was different was that people were not afraid of the information they posted being used against them... they were less skeptical and much less paranoid. Today, simply posting a question on a mailing list gets you loaded into an archive which is loaded into bulk e-mailing programs. It is indexed for searching and employers or police or whomever can view cached pages of what you had said.

Even without the law, you could be DDoS'ed by some k1dd13 for comments you've made about him. Or, a corporation could send you one of those great DMCA letters for your comments about one of their products.

Lastly, something as simple as your "e-commerce" purchase from Egghead.com can be turned against you overnight.

Who can you trust? Today, no one. Before, it was no one... but you could generally assume that the dregs (or stupidasses) of society had been filtered out and not have to worry about your daughter's conversations with an e-mail friend possibly being with a thrice-convicted child predator. It's not to say that it didn't exist, because it did... but it was not rampant.

It's my opinion that the main reason why older users feel some sort of nostalgia is that, no matter how you slice it, the free exchange of information has been hampered.

Boggle (1.63 / 11) (#35)
by zerth on Mon Jan 15, 2001 at 02:11:42 AM EST

Once again amazed at the ability of the net to make age/location/etc irrelevant... I always thought Sig11 was older than I.

Whee, yet another topic to add to my list.

Hang on. Now I feel old=:{

Rusty isn't God here, he's the pope; our God is pedantry. -- Subtillus
go hiking, travel somewhere (none / 0) (#81)
by danny on Mon Jan 15, 2001 at 11:41:04 PM EST

A lot of my life revolves around the Net - my jobs, paid and unpaid, my activism, and some of my hobbies. But I try to get away regularly - mostly short bushwalks ("hikes" for those of you who don't speak Australian :-) but every so often for a month overseas. (Geek salaries, especially in the United States, will go a long way in countries such as India or Indonesia.)

So rather than risking burn-out for long periods, maybe take regular shorter breaks from it all occasionally.

[900 book reviews and other stuff]
[ Parent ]

The power is mine (4.20 / 15) (#38)
by Beorn on Mon Jan 15, 2001 at 04:40:57 AM EST

I have lost my early fascination with everything digital. I know what a computer is now, what it can do. Faster processors don't impress me, higher framerates are irrelevant. But becoming cynical is an option, it's your choice - not an inevitability.

I still feel like a magician, sitting here with a keyboard on my lap and a window to the universe. The nerd/sf&f-connection is no coincidence, even moderate, non-elite computer skills are the real life equivalents of magic. There is power in computing, great individual power, and nobody can take that away, you just learn how to deal with it. Of course, part of dealing with it might be to expand your interests, or stop using it, but that is your choice.

All I know is, that as long I have a desktop computer with my own, encryptable storage unit and a moderate level of legal protection as an individual, I couldn't care less how unimaginative morons waste their CPU cycles and bandwith. I enjoyed my 386 in 1993, and I can enjoy this Pentium 3 in 2001. The power is mine.

- Beorn

[ Threepwood '01 ]

Don't give up hope (4.66 / 6) (#42)
by titus-g on Mon Jan 15, 2001 at 09:56:36 AM EST

light a candle :)


--"Essentially madness is like charity, it begins at home" --

Not to mention... (3.50 / 2) (#52)
by dennis on Mon Jan 15, 2001 at 12:00:52 PM EST

...Freenet, for noncommercialized networking. Or any number of Linux projects, so it's not an "unrealized dream" anymore. Maybe work on Gnome for usability, or work on installation/configuration tools, or just write up some good documentation.

Incidentally, electronics and aerospace aren't exactly noncommercial industries...

[ Parent ]

K5 needs to get over itself (3.68 / 19) (#43)
by jasonab on Mon Jan 15, 2001 at 10:13:12 AM EST

I don't care to count the number of articles in the past few days that have boiled down to "I'm 17 now, and everything was better when I was 12." Even more funny are the posts asking "why does everyone hate me when I tell them they're stupid?"

People, get over yourselves. If there's one thing I've learned, it's that no matter how much you know, you'll always know more later. No matter how much perspective you think you have, you'll have more perspective later. Now stop whining and thinking cynical is cool. Cynical is sad at 50, and pathetic at 20.

America is a great country. One of the freest in the world. -- greenrd
Breaking Copy Protection (2.75 / 8) (#44)
by Anonymous 7324 on Mon Jan 15, 2001 at 11:01:29 AM EST

I can't spend my time defeating copy protection - there are more productive things I can do with my time..

This is rebellion against tyranny, greed, and the established order. IMHO it is actually quite a worthwhile pursuit.

quite possibly (2.66 / 3) (#69)
by ChannelX on Mon Jan 15, 2001 at 06:43:38 PM EST

but not all of us think that proprietary software is a sign of tyranny and greed. I still don't get why some people think that a person making a profit and living off of their hard work is a crime.

[ Parent ]
RE: quite possibly (3.50 / 2) (#76)
by Colonol_Panic on Mon Jan 15, 2001 at 08:04:03 PM EST

You won't find a single person saying that people shouldn't be able to profit from their work. Even the MPAA deserves to be paid resonably for their movies, but restricting people's personal use of them is beyond their rights as a copyright holder. Copyright is not the holder's personal weapon against everybody else; it is a system of checks and balances just like the entire US government. The balance to copyright is fair use, and copy "protection" completely removes people's rights to fair use, tipping the balance of power completely in favor of the producer. That's why breaking copy control is a worthwhile cause.
Here's my DeCSS mirror. Where's Yours?
[ Parent ]
Agree with most of this (none / 0) (#92)
by ChannelX on Wed Jan 17, 2001 at 03:18:04 PM EST

however if that personal use includes making copies for friends and family, etc then its completely out of the arena of fair use. If people would be honest and *only* do 'fair use' things with the copyrighted material they buy we wouldnt have this problem. Its a very touchy area to be sure.

Oh, I would bet that there are plenty of people out there that think all software, etc should be free.

[ Parent ]

Re: Breaking Copy Protection ( "Robin Hoods&q (3.50 / 2) (#83)
by curious on Tue Jan 16, 2001 at 12:29:59 AM EST

This is rebellion against tyranny, greed, and the established order. IMHO it is actually quite a worthwhile pursuit.

What a crock.

I myself cracked software for several years, first on Wintel platforms, and later on Gnu/Linux systems [1]. And then, one day, I got the first in a succession of Real Jobs (TM), working for software houses, and actually coding for my daily bread.

After seeing things this way, I have some observations, that you may or may not agree with ( either is fine ).

Cracking software is an interesting intellectual challenge. It can sharpen your own knowledge of software development, machine / asm coding and architecture. It can be a great source of personal satisfaction, and a very entertaining race to enter with a bunch of other crackers, however, what it is not, is some kind of "rebellion" striking out against those mean spirited bastards that are, who would have thought, trying to make a living.

If you want free software, there's lots of it out there. I can run my entire home, do all sorts of exciting things, and when I run out of exciting things, make some more of my own. :-) Today, you don't have to be a "dark" terrorist if you want to change things, to reshape the information world around you - you can build an alternative for yourself, and others that think the same way.

( I know this is turning into a massive, off topic rant, but I can't stand this "Robin Hood" attitude that people talk themselves into believing. )

Software piracy destroyed the will of developers to work on my first platform - The CBM Amiga. No matter how many crackers tell me otherwise, no matter how many +oRC's come and go, and no matter how many copies of Photoshop Adobe lose to this "rebellion" which today mostly amounts to posting "serialz" on sUp4R-3l3T3 sites, it can never be, to me, anything but destructive, short sighted and a waste of skilled coders time.

Feh, I know this isn't being entirely fair of me, and I hope I'm not treading on anyones idealogical toes, but I can't honestly see how cracking as "rebellion" is justifyable. I will close with a final analogy: assuming both are equally easy to do, which is the better solution for dealing with famine: invading another country and taking their food, or planting crops of your own? I think in time, the information harvest that one produces for oneself is intensely more satisfying than one that was stolen by guile, no matter how much skill was used.

Time for my pills.

[1] Thin pickings, I might add.

"Got History?" -- The Prelinger Archive of Ephemeral Movies.
[ Parent ]

Pardon me... (3.50 / 10) (#45)
by B'Trey on Mon Jan 15, 2001 at 11:12:49 AM EST

... but I find it rather funny that someone is saying "I was here in the beginning ..." and talking about '"l33t" quake skillz.' By the time Quake came out, the it was pretty much over. It, by the way, being the time when the Internet could truly be considered a frontier. I started browsing the web via Lynx with a dial-up account on a Unix server, and I was generally considerd a late-comer. I actually spent more time on Gopher than on the web in the beginning, because there was more there. Many of the on-line friends I made during that time frame had already been there for years. In a sense, I miss those days. I miss the days of BBS's and side-scroller video games (Captain Keen, anyone?) and comic books that looked like comic books and not miniature graphic novels. But the passing of an era isn't anything new. It happens all the time. It's happening right now, it'll happen tomorrow and next week and next year. A lot of the posters on here are quite young. In a few years, they'll be looking back at right now and talking about how much they miss the old K5 days. There's nothing wrong with being a bit nostalgic but the choice of whether to pack it in and give up is just that - a choice. In other words, welcome to life. Life IS change. You deal with it or you die - either physically or emotionally. Your choice.

It was Commander Keen... (3.00 / 1) (#54)
by nickwkg on Mon Jan 15, 2001 at 12:31:52 PM EST

Pedantic I know :)

[ Parent ]
Actually... (3.33 / 3) (#59)
by Signal 11 on Mon Jan 15, 2001 at 01:56:21 PM EST

It was kings quest. ;)

Society needs therapy. It's having
trouble accepting itself.
[ Parent ]
... the original PC Jr. version (none / 0) (#93)
by Moebius on Fri Jan 19, 2001 at 05:21:56 PM EST

/me waits for the MIT geek to say "No, it was Zork" (No, it was Altair ADVENT!)

[ Parent ]
Online Death Notices (4.63 / 11) (#46)
by blixco on Mon Jan 15, 2001 at 11:16:43 AM EST

We used to do this thing on Usenet (we're talking ancient history here, kids: I was with alt.syntax.tactical and alt.alien.vampire.flonk.flonk.flonk) when we would burn out....too many hours of online life vs. too many hours of working on systems vs. too little personal time. So we would invariably jump online and post a "what does it all mean...I'm signing off forever / for a while / for a week" type post. A UseNet Death Notice, signifying to everyone that we were dropping off.

The funny thing about this: while people would care, nothing changed or stopped, and eventually the itch to start posting would occur again.

These types of breaks are necessary. When you post as much as signal_11 does, and when you *feel* as much about your posts as signal_11 does, you need to break from the scene and just breathe for a while. The scene is changing a bit, but I remember being pissed off when I was charged to access the net....back in 1986. I remember feeling a complete loss of faith in the freedom of the "community" when they shut down the wsmr ftp site (simtel archives and more). I remember staring at the first web site and being horrified by the passiveness of it.

Change happens. Odds are none of this will be free soon. You'll have to either pay for this info (more than the access charges you pay now) or set up your own networks. It was never meant for you anyway, and it certainly wasn't meant to handle the traffic that it handles now. Commercialization of the 'net is the best thing for it: eventually it'll be unusable, and life will continue.

But I've been saying that for years, and it still hasn't happened. And I've become sick to death of it and sworn I would never return....and I keep dragging myself back to it. Now, though, it's more like a television and less like a telephone...and even less like something I need to pay attention to.

The root of the problem has been isolated.
Fun with Text (3.71 / 7) (#47)
by ucblockhead on Mon Jan 15, 2001 at 11:19:56 AM EST

Less than seven years ago it was inconceivable that the internet would be used as anything but a tool by researchers.


When I was in college, I had a job that entailed babysitting a "server" for a physics professor. It was mostly deadly dull, and kept myself from complete boredom by farting around on the internet.

The year was 1986, the "server" was an obsolete PDP-11, and "farting around on the internet" consisted of perusing those research tools, "rec.sf-lovers" and "rec.humor", among others. (To the nitpickers: yeah, I'm probably not remembering the names correctly.)

People have been using the Internet for recreation for decades, long before "http" meant anything.
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup

It's all about YOU, isn't it? ;) (3.57 / 7) (#49)
by jabber on Mon Jan 15, 2001 at 11:26:00 AM EST

I agree with your observation.

IT is no longer a frontier. It is no longer the Wild Wild World Wide Web. IT has become tamed and mainstream, through the diligent efforts of homesteaders and cowboys. After these loners came in and killed the most agressive of the Indians, they were followed by a rush of prospectors looking for gold in 'them thar hills', and claim stakers and URL squatters and school marms, and railroad tycoons and all those pesky immigrants and tourists and "me too's".

What's a lonely, asocial cowboy to do, when society incessantly follows him into the frontier? Far be it for him to get a shower and a shave, and start acting like a farmer. He has to pack up his ruck-sack and ride off into the sunset. Doesn't he? The 'domesticated' are here now... There goes the neighborhood! Time to pack up our crap and head off for the still relatively undiscovered country of bioinformatics.

Happy trails to you.

[TINK5C] |"Is K5 my kapusta intellectual teddy bear?"| "Yes"

We Need a Recession or a War (2.07 / 13) (#53)
by CiXeL on Mon Jan 15, 2001 at 12:12:18 PM EST

I was just thinking about this. We need a recession, a new technological revolution or a war. We need to give all the overworked IT people chasing their carrots of stock market dreams. Struggles breed intelligence while success breeds laziness and idiocy. This is the self-limiting factor of wealth which causes the undisciplined children of wealthy parents to be reduced back down to base level. The sooner we have a war, a new technological revolution or a recession the better, although I think at this point a technological revolution wouldn't even make any difference. The problem is that in their wealth people have grown incredibly lazy. There is an insane amount of potential still trapped in the computer field, the problem is we now lack the motivation to achieve it.
Question Tradition...
heh. (none / 0) (#80)
by use strict on Mon Jan 15, 2001 at 11:28:40 PM EST

If your a firm believer in history, the second depression should be coming any time now.

The stock market values are very, very close to the same that they were in 1929, percentage wise.

I'm just glad that I work at a place where 'stock options' aren't an option -- and a nice happy union which keeps me from getting fired without a nice severance check. :)

[ Parent ]
It's that darn bell curve ... and "scent" (4.42 / 26) (#55)
by tmoertel on Mon Jan 15, 2001 at 12:33:13 PM EST

Picture a bell curve. It represents the distribution of people that use the Internet. Where a particular person falls left-to-right on the bell curve is determined by how much that person contributes to the "well being" of your Internet. People on the left contribute less; people on the right, more.

In the center of the bell are the everyday masses. They don't contribute much to the Internet or its culture. They "harm" the Internet in mostly passive ways: They weigh it down with their sheer numbers and dilute its culture with their own.

On the left side of the bell are the folks that you will find particularly troublesome. These folks prey upon the Internet masses because now (when there are masses to prey upon) it has become profitable to do so. These are the spammers, the markteroids, the gatekeepers, the fearmongers, the legislators, and their ilk. These folk are especially nasty because their assault on the Internet and its culture is active: They are trying to reshape it into something that better serves their purposes.

And finally, on the right side of the bell, are the folks we love to love. The comp.sources.unix contributors of old, the folks who bring insight and graciousness to everyday online conversations, and the students who slave day and night setting up discussion boards or wire-wrapping circuit boards so that they can put their lab Coke machines online. This group actively contributes to the Internet, making it a better place for all (except maybe for a few folks in the far left tail of the curve).

Six or seven years ago, if we would have drawn such a curve, the "old curve" let's call it, it would still have a bell shape. It would be smaller -- both flatter and skinnier. Most importantly, it would be shifted to the right. If we were to superimpose the old curve over the modern-day curve, I would guess that the old curve's center would fall somewhere about one and a half standard deviations to the right of the modern-day curve's center.

In other words, the bulk of the old Internet users were by today's standards what we would call first-class, good Internet citizens. While this isn't going to surprise anyone, it does make one wonder... Where have all these good citizens gone?

Now, about scent.

For the most part, the good citizens have not gone away. They're just harder to find, now that the Internet is such a big, noisy place. I'd even venture to say that there are more good citizens now than ever before. So, why can't we find them?

A few years ago, I attended a talk at CMU where the speaker (from Xerox PARC, I believe) introduced me to the notion of information scent. He explained that in order to efficiently find and navigate through complex information spaces, you would greatly benefit from having traces of the information distributed throughout the space in such a way that you could get a "whiff" of interesting pieces of information even when you were distant from them. You could then follow the most interesting scents to the most interesting information. For example, one type of scent on the Web is hyperlinks. Another is index entries in search-engine databases. They're not necessarily the most effective scents, but scents they are. (For more on this, check out the publications at Xerox PARC UIRG.)

Now, getting back to our topic, it would seem that in the same way that scent could be used to locate interesting information, it could be used to locate interesting people. Could we not derive definitions of scent for people such that that it becomes easy to sniff out the interesting people and their contributions to our Internet?

If such definitions of scent and the tools to use them were widely adopted (even by a fixed community), it could be possible to "live" within the right side of the bell curve. The left side would still exist, but you would pay it no notice.

It's interesting to note that k5 already has the makings of a richly detailed scent system. Imagine that we tweaked the rating system just a little bit. Instead of each rating being an average, what if it was a score based on your particular scent preference, as implicitly defined by your ratings of other comments and how well those ratings correlated with other users' ratings of the same comments?

For example, if Joe and Biff rated a comment 1 and 5 respectively, and in the past your ratings have been strongly correlated with Joe's and not at all with Biff's, k5 could strongly trust Joe's rating and discount Biff's. Perhaps the comment in question would be rated 1.2 for you. In the example, k5 learned that you trust scent left by Joe but not by Biff, and it redistributed k5's information space accordingly. Joe's ratings moved into the right side of your personal bell curve; Biff's, into the left side.

If such trusted-scent systems were widely in use, the Internet would (seem to) be a much better place. We could each draw our own bell curves and choose which portions of them to let into our lives.

K5 might be a nice place to start.

My blog | LectroTest

[ Disagree? Reply. ]

About that rating system. (5.00 / 2) (#86)
by Dion on Tue Jan 16, 2001 at 07:56:31 AM EST

The rating system you describe has been implemented (and patented:) by likeminds (they are now a part of macromedia)

You can see a demo of the thing at http://moviecritic.com

Sniff around the site and the likeminds site long enough and you will find the patents that cover this

Stupid move really, as I don't care about software patents and I don't live in the States, so I can use the patents to help me implement their algorithms without ever being bothered by that:)

Note that one of the people involved (chairman, founder or something) is Tim Oreilly something I find amusing as Tim is also very much against lame software patents:)

Sorry for getting carried away there, but do go and try moviecritic, it really is a nice tool.

[ Parent ]
You just described GroupLens (none / 0) (#91)
by Paul Crowley on Wed Jan 17, 2001 at 07:02:00 AM EST

You just described the GroupLens collaborative filtering system. One of the great advantages would be that it would be hard to spam the ratings by creating fake accounts.

I agree with the broad point, that effective reputation rating systems are the solution to creating an online community which preserves the good stuff and filters out the crap. K5's rating system is deeply broken, and the problems show as increasing levels of crap.
Paul Crowley aka ciphergoth. Crypto and sex politics. Diary.
[ Parent ]

Damn whiners. (4.47 / 17) (#56)
by jetpack on Mon Jan 15, 2001 at 12:34:54 PM EST

This sort of nonesense is a pet peeve of mine, so I'll address the related meta topic. This will probably sound like I'm flaming Mr. 11, but really it's more about applying the blow torch to all like-minded individuals.

Too often I hear people, friends included, saying things like "there's no good music anymore", "the internet sucks now", "movies suck", etc. Well, folks, that's just not true. Sure, there's lots of crappy music, there's lots of crap on the internet, there are a lot of shitty movies.

But, guess what? There's a lot more of everything. There's still good music, there's still good stuff on the internet, and there are still good movies. In fact, I'd be suprised if the absolute volume of Good Stuff is not actually greater now than it was a mere 20 years ago. Sure, you have to look harder now to find Good Stuff, because the percentage hasn't changed much, and most of the stuff that is easy to find (read: heavily promoted) is crap.

However, Good Stuff is out there. Think movies are crap? Start checking out indie film festivals. Think music is crap? Go to some local clubs, check out indie labels. The web is crap? What about K5, advogato, rootprompt, oldmanmurray? Not to mention that for any interest you might have, there is probably a number of dedicated websites.

And the best bit is that once you dig enough to find the music/movie/internet stuff that you like, you usually find a close-knit community that revolves around Good Stuff. And those communities have much more of a feel of the good 'ol days, whether on the net or off.

As at least one poster previously pointed out, you are certainly allowed to opt out and ignore everything, but that is your choice. I submit that if you choose to say that everything in this day and age is crap, you aren't looking hard enough. Your loss.

/* The beatings will continue until morale improves */

The seven years arguement is largely irrelevant... (3.00 / 4) (#57)
by yankeehack on Mon Jan 15, 2001 at 01:03:39 PM EST

After reading some of the posts here, I noticed that there was a thread of "yeah, I was on the Internet forever!" kind of thread being perpetuated.

I just wanted to point out that the Boucher Bill which opened the Internet to commericial traffic was signed in November 1992 by the other President Bush. (However, it isn't clear when the legislation went into effect). So, if you were on waaaaay back then, pre-1992/93 it only means that you had either governmental or academic access to the Net.

And, another interesting factoid that I learned this morning was that the same Mr. Rick Boucher (D-VA) who opened up the Net to us mere mortals also had a hand in the DMCA legislation.

No one who was bad in bed has ever been good in life (i.e. liberals, I've never had sex with a liberal woman who knew how to use her body.) Keeteel :-P I'm *right*!

State of the net pre-1992 (4.00 / 2) (#58)
by jbuck on Mon Jan 15, 2001 at 01:54:24 PM EST

It's not correct to claim that those on the net pre-92 only had government or academic access. Many companies were on the net before then, although what could be done legally on the net was restricted, although these restrictions were frequently ignored. Cygnus was already doing commercial support of the GNU tools over the net by then, and some were claiming that they were breaking the rules but they had some kind of argument as to why they could do it.

And what you miss was that in those days we had a hybrid net, with Usenet and much email going primarily over UUCP links. There were lots of folks doing business over UUCP connections.

ObOldTimer: I was at the Naval Research Lab in 1982. January 1 was a holiday, so the first time I used the Internet was on the second day of its existence (it became the Internet the day it switched to TCP/IP, before that it was the Arpanet and you couldn't connect directly to hosts not directly on the Arpanet).

[ Parent ]

point almost conceded to you.... (none / 0) (#63)
by yankeehack on Mon Jan 15, 2001 at 03:37:45 PM EST

I would concede the point to you (about more than just governmental/academic access), but I have to argue back that pre-1992 that there wasn't anyone legally providing/selling access to the Net to the general public.

I just wanted to make the point for the bulk of k5ers (who seem to be under the age of 25 or so) that the arguement of "I was on before the hordes of lusers" is nearly moot.

I *do* appreciate your correction, however. :-)

No one who was bad in bed has ever been good in life (i.e. liberals, I've never had sex with a liberal woman who knew how to use her body.) Keeteel :-P I'm *right*!
[ Parent ]

Not True (4.00 / 2) (#74)
by kagaku_ninja on Mon Jan 15, 2001 at 07:44:54 PM EST

I was using... er... Portal, that the one. They provided basic email and access to USENET news. Back in 1987 I think (I had just bought my first computer, an Amiga 2000).

[ Parent ]
The point was that there were multiple nets (none / 0) (#95)
by jbuck on Fri Feb 16, 2001 at 09:24:03 PM EST

In the 80s there were many disconnected distributed networks (UUCPnet/Usenet, Fidonet) plus lots of dialup BBSes. Yes, some of these offered services to the public for a fee. And yes, you could send email to people on other nets, but it was tricky ... you had to understand the network topology, know about the gateways, and how to write mixed paths with ! for UUCP, @ for Internet, and % for some of the other funny nets.

[ Parent ]
Maybe it's time for BBS's to come back (2.75 / 4) (#61)
by dyskordus on Mon Jan 15, 2001 at 02:11:33 PM EST

Most of my early online experience was with BBS's. I had fun playing games, downloaded files, and had stimulating conversation with other people.

Instead of being flooded with commercialism, BBS's have all but died, and it's sad.

What may have made BBS's more enjoyable (for me at least) was the necessity of _some_ computing skills for their use. If you couldn't figure out a terminal emulation program (many current internet users can't)

Of the few BBS's that exist today, many can be run over telnet.

Once I am able to afford a broadband connection (pay off my new furnace) I plan to do just the same thing (I have already found an ISP with a good AUP).

"Reality is less than television."-Brian Oblivion.

Set up a BBS? (none / 0) (#75)
by sl4ck0ff on Mon Jan 15, 2001 at 07:49:11 PM EST

As soon as you pay off your new furnace, I definately want to be a part of your BBS. As soon as you get it up, spread the word and lets relive some of the best parts of the early 'net.
/me has returned to slacking
[ Parent ]
um... (none / 0) (#79)
by use strict on Mon Jan 15, 2001 at 11:19:30 PM EST

I don't want to jump the gun here, but perhaps some of you may be interested in this little project of mine.

It's about .. 25% into completion, but I am working on an object based BBS system in perl. The system uses XML-based templates which allow for the output methods to be abstracted from the BBS system, as well as many other things. It's primarily driven by a database and a small daemon that I'm just starting to write.

The advantage though, is that both the web AND telnet interfaces are available, as well as pretty much anything you can write an output 'driver' for is possible.

If anyone is interested in helping with DEVELOPING this project, please let me know. I am not interested in sourceforge or the likes yet because I want to keep the S:N ratio down until I have a stable release, and it's mainly my project. But, a few OO perl developers who might be interested in working on a project like this would be a great boon as development is moving slower than I'd like.

Feel free to email me, erik@powells.com if you are interested or have feature ideas.

Not trying to plug, but I figure with the quantity of developers and consequently BBS users in this article, this might provide some interesting input on how I can apply what I'm working on (since most of it right now is abstract).

[ Parent ]
Here we go again (3.60 / 10) (#65)
by spacejack on Mon Jan 15, 2001 at 05:04:54 PM EST

I grew up under the shadow of the baby boomers. 10 years ago all you heard was "Don't trust anyone under 30", "Music sucks nowadays", "So many of our dreams were unrealized", "Everyone sold out", etc.

Now, before my generation has even gotten a chance to whine, we've got the next generation whining about how the internet already sucks. (I still can't believe this.. I was on the internet 6 years ago. It was boring and almost useless. It wasn't nearly as easy to find useful info on most things and the only people using it were total geeks. Finally it's getting somewhat interesting and of course people are ready to tell you it sucks as soon as their l33t status ain't so l33t anymore)

Man it sucks growing up between population bubbles. All you hear is whining. I think that's what I'll whine about from now on. Maybe I should write an article. Would such a self-pitying piece of tripe get posted to the front page as well?

Another one of these... (4.00 / 10) (#66)
by ubu on Mon Jan 15, 2001 at 05:08:05 PM EST

This must be a "thoughtful" article because it generates so many of the obvious complaints and, at the same time, so many of the obvious rebuttals. A classic Signal 11.

"Any fun left in this industry?" You silly power-hungry geeks. You don't want your own slice of a big pie, you just want to own the whole pie. It's not enough that there are more money, more opportunities, and more cool toys in the industry these days; the fact that anyone is doing anything un-fun just spoils your whole day.

These days finding fun in software is as easy as learning a brand-new programming language every week. Ye Gods, there's a new (and interesting) one popping up at least that often. My Webservers all run server-side Ruby scripts, just so I can tell confused admins to go piss up a rope. If you think that's not fun, you probably haven't tried it.

As for this demonization of "commercialization", I just plain don't get it. A 20-year-old with no degree can make enough to live more comfortably than his parents because of commercial interest in information technology, but for some reason that same 20-year-old sees no irony in spending his spare time writing "provocative" essays about the evil corporate demons that are just ruining life these days! *sob*


As good old software hats say - "You are in very safe hands, if you are using CVS !!!"
you missed... (long, sorry) (3.00 / 1) (#78)
by use strict on Mon Jan 15, 2001 at 11:10:13 PM EST

... the whole point.

Perhaps you weren't around when the only way to get 'online' was through a 2400 (1200? 300?) baud modem into a local area BBS, because prodigy and compuserve were just as much of a joke as they are now.

Perhaps you weren't around when FidoNET was king, and voicing your opinion meant that the guy DOWN THE STREET was pissed off at you. Your voice meant something but at the same time your reputation meant something as well.

And most important, perhaps you never got the $300 phone bills that you worked your ass off at McDonalds for so that 50-60 people could get their email from a guy in asia on your systems and your users could get a copy of DOOM or Wolfenstein to spend half the day tying up your SINGLE CONNECTION to download.

And I bet you never looked at the amazing source code for the fossil driver X00, which was written by communications god Ray Gwinn -- 120k source, ASSEMBLER, back when men could actually sustain themselves on shareware being passed through Fido-based file networks.

This has nothing to do with money. This has to do with community spirit, hackability, and days gone. The gods are still out there but wear their company logo on their T-shirts and hopefully await their next stock option increase.

And those who aren't gods hide behind a vapor cloud of proxies and tons of user identities. They use this not for their protection, but so that if they piss 'the wrong people' off they can just start over again with a new account and ip address. Undernet IRC problems? You think this would happen on Fidonet? I think not, the average skript kiddie isn't going ot dial long distance because his current provider got his feed cut off for not filtering out the kiddie's crap.

I understand, but don't always agree with Signal 11. I think he's right on target here, and I know that he's not alone in this thought. I work everyday with non-computer users, having them request crap from me everyday, asking them how they want it to work and they just say 'however you think is best', but when I bring them back 4 hours of work, they toss it out the window because it wasn't good enough and make me start over. Wash, Rinse, Repeat.

However, I don't think that's a reason to quit. There is no reason to quit. The simple fact is, and it's already happened, is that the oil will seperate itself from the water. How many of you spend time on yahoo! chat or whatever it's called this week. I doubt many.

Also places like slashdot and kuro5hin (although, less slashdot in say, the last YEAR OR TWO) are a testament to this. No computer geek, tech support, programmer, what have you, is going to want ANYTHING to do involving conversations computing-based with a non-geek after work. I, in fact, left work early today because a certain person at work had just pushed the threshold of my tolerance.

Anyways, enough of this rant. But nothing in this article has ANYTHING to do with money.

[ Parent ]
re: my grouchy response (4.75 / 4) (#84)
by ubu on Tue Jan 16, 2001 at 02:26:14 AM EST

Perhaps you weren't around...

And perhaps I was. Perhaps my friend was one of those guys with a big stack of modems and a bunch of old XTs running a free BBS.

This has nothing to do with money. This has to do with community spirit, hackability, and days gone. The gods are still out there but wear their company logo on their T-shirts and hopefully await their next stock option increase.

Of course it has something to do with money. But then, I wasn't the one who mentioned $300 phone bills. And there is always a reason for what people do; sometimes it's money, sometimes it's not. In a free country it's almost always voluntary.

But what I need least of all is a dissertation on community spirit and group hugs. I don't need a pat on the back for my good deeds, and when my good deeds stop I hope nobody complains that they deserved them. Forgive me, I'm a black-hearted cynic, so "Boo hoo, what a shame, the world's changing."

I work everyday with non-computer users, having them request crap from me everyday, asking them how they want it to work and they just say 'however you think is best', but when I bring them back 4 hours of work, they toss it out the window because it wasn't good enough and make me start over. Wash, Rinse, Repeat.

Yeah, people suck. What a crying shame. It would be refreshing, except we've been hearing these "death of the community" predictions for about 50 bazillion goddamn years, and God Almighty it's an old conversation. Remember "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress", the part about jokes that are always funny and jokes that are only funny once? Well this one-trick pony has worn out its welcome for some time. I don't want to hear about the Good Old Days anymore, I want to hear about your goddamn spine and how you're going to do something about the Good New Days.

Probably not you, specifically. I'm 100% sure you're a great guy who has no intention of being a pusswad, ever. But think of the children, man! They don't need to hear this shit, it's for retirement-home hackers with arthritis in their space-bar thumb and nothing to do but bitch nostalgic about times past. You probably have something to complain about, you're entitled -- really, you are. But some 20-year-old is going to get the idea he has a right to gripe and moan, too, and in this day and age a whining 20-year-old is about the ugliest, sorriest thing I've ever seen.

Anyway, enough of this rant. But nothing in this article has ANYTHING to do with money.

Pardon me, but f*** that noise. Everything has something to do with money, and I thank God for that. If it were any other way we'd all be in trouble, contrary to the MTV-watching popular opinion.

As good old software hats say - "You are in very safe hands, if you are using CVS !!!"
[ Parent ]
HAW HAW HAW (3.50 / 6) (#70)
by MisterBad on Mon Jan 15, 2001 at 07:00:46 PM EST

A couple of things I wanted to point out here. First, people who believe in "The Internet Way" are needed now MORE THAN EVER in order to keep the online world free. Pansy-ass whining about how things aren't fun any more is just lame.

You don't find joy in computers any more? Then maybe you were never One Of Us to begin with. You're disappointed that the world is no longer free and egalitarian? Then you're not fighting hard enough to MAKE it free and egalitarian, and you don't deserve your freedom. Go sit on your stump, grampa, and quit trying to bring the rest of us down.

Second thing I wanted to point out is that there are some really COOL THINGS going on in the world of software that are upsetting the commercially-imposed order on the Net. For example, there's Freenet, which is a great tool for subversive behavior. If you're not hacking a tool for Freenet, or hacking the core itself, or at the very least putting up interesting dangerous content on Freenet, then you're missing out on one of the funnest things to happen in the electronic world since BBSes. No shitting.

Last thing I want to point out is: a hearty ROCK ON to the people still sticking with the Struggle. You're heroes of the Information Age, and don't forget it. When some lamer falls by the wayside, remember the words of Henry V: "The fewer men, the greater share of honour."

I agree with you 100% (3.00 / 2) (#73)
by sl4ck0ff on Mon Jan 15, 2001 at 07:43:26 PM EST

Sorry, Signal_11, I'm your friend, but this guy has a real good point.
/me has returned to slacking
[ Parent ]
Hrmmm..... (4.00 / 1) (#87)
by blixco on Tue Jan 16, 2001 at 11:22:49 AM EST

I'm all for a good fight, and I'm all for bringing The System down (and The Man down with it), but this strikes me as being a bit strange.. The attitude is all wrong: why scorn and divide when you can draw people together? This is just the type of elitism I deal with in the real world every day: you're not with The Movement, so you're against The Movement. Whole Movements go backwards when only "the elite" (usually one guy by the time all is said and done) are encouraged. You have the right energy, but your criticism is incorrect. Signal_11 is burned out, and needs a break. He's questioning whether it's worth returning, whether it'll ever be worth the fight. And it's a good question: when you "win," what are you winning? Time? Enjoyment? Happiness? Information? Whose information? Did you create the content, or did AOL/Time Warner? The subversive files that you are distributing over freenet: are they your creations? Or are you a router?

Sounds like you're a bit of a cheerleader. I'm all for that....again, I think you've got the right energy. It will be people who set up their own networks (encrypted tunnels, wireless, BBS's, whatever) that stay connected and keep the information flowing....but what's it buying you? What do you get from your free speech exercise? Odds are, nothing more than a selfish sense of false satisfaction.

Take the activist in you, and do something worthwhile. The information you produce from your activities will be far more outstanding than anything you can merely pass along. There's a lot more to life than ones and zeros. At least, there better be.

The root of the problem has been isolated.
[ Parent ]
I walked up hill both ways! (3.50 / 2) (#82)
by TigerBaer on Tue Jan 16, 2001 at 12:23:30 AM EST

Ok, enough of the "i was using the internet before Bill Gates ripped off Dos..." comments!

The fact is that the internet since 1998 or so has exploded with commercialism, wherease prior to 1998 it was still (relatively) a niche. Every other company has sites on the internet, regardless of whether or not they are useful.

The article writer has a good point. The internet, once a place where one could find unbiased opinions and commentaries, is lost (with the exception of sites like k5). The majority, even the old fav /. have become slaves to the major media portals (yahoo, cnn, msn), always referring to biased superficial news from these sites.

Ultimately it seems that a new medium needs to be explored to foster a new environment (i.e. fuck http!). The internet in its purity has been abused, and it is time for those who still believe in the truth the internet's architecture cradles, to discard the www, and begin with something new.

But i guess that a new medium for intelligent discoure will also be overrun with commercial mainstream eventually. Is there any hope?

PS is it morally wrong to end a post with a question ? :-)

There *is* joy in the Internet! (none / 0) (#88)
by Erf on Tue Jan 16, 2001 at 02:47:58 PM EST

I agree that a lot of people are getting caught up in the scale of things, and there's a lot of noise on the Net, but the signal (no pun intended) is there! This site is an obvious example, of course -- I can come here and expect intelligent discussions on interesting topics. But there's a lot of other stuff going on, too.

People are putting their own "content" online, more and more. Elfwood hosts thousands (tens of thousands?) of artists and writers, all putting their stuff online for the world to enjoy (and discuss!). Some of my favorite artists on MP3.com are people I've never heard of, and who may possibly never get a contract on a "Major Record Label", but I still get to hear them. My Dad regularly reads the online version of a Charlottown, P.E.I. newspaper, from B.C. People can do strange and ill-advised things and post them for the entertainment of the rest of us.

I've seen and heard things I otherwise wouldn't have, and I've contributed myself. It can take a bit of time to find the wheat in the chaff, but it's still good wheat!

...doin' the things a particle can...

Sweet (none / 0) (#90)
by sl4ck0ff on Tue Jan 16, 2001 at 08:31:23 PM EST

Sounds great, just fantastic. Really looking forward to it, maybe you should register a domain name for it to keep people in touch, eg Open-Root
/me has returned to slacking
What part of this is unique? (none / 0) (#96)
by elenchos on Fri Apr 20, 2001 at 08:31:39 PM EST

Would it be that hard to take all of the issues and events you describe and map them to some other decade, with the same result? You could retell this story and make it about a guy in 1980 with exacatly the same thoughts in his head at the end. Or make it 1880. You had some stuff you were excited about when you were younger, the stuff has changed, the world has changed, you have changed. Now you are wistfully looking back and wondering which direction to move in next.

Sounds an awful lot like a human life to me. Which I suppose at least disproves any claim that you didn't have one. You are getting older, wondering what it is all about, etc. There is nothing wrong here, except that if you are going to tell the story of a human life which is the same as every other human life in the world, probably you need to tell it with some art, and some kind of insight that adds to previous works on the same subject; i.e. Hamlet, Huckleberry Finn, Microserfs,... um, I dunno, that Simpsons episode where Bart turns nine... you get the idea.

Say to yourself in the early morning: I shall meet today inquisitive, ungrateful, violent, treacherous, envious, uncharitable men. All these things have come upon them through ignorance of real good and ill. --Marcus Aurelius, Med. ii.

Off the Horizon | 94 comments (71 topical, 23 editorial, 0 hidden)
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