Scoop (the software that runs Kuro5hin) started in late December of 1999, as a way for me to pass some time, and an experiment in writing online discussion software. I was involved in the effort to get the (long overdue) slash code released, and eventually I got tired of asking, and decided that since everyone kept telling me I couldn't complain unless I had written my own, that was what I'd do. Ironically, by the time slash actually did release the 0.9 version, I no longer cared about it, since I had already created Scoop, and put quite a lot of time into it. C'est la vie.
Kuro5hin.org began as a lark, basically, as a site where I could test out first the slash code, then later the Scoop code, and post the random things that occasionally popped into my head. If any of you has been enterprising and dug way back in the archives, every story that was ever posted to K5 is still around here (hint: search for "Christmas"). You'll notice that the early content was all written by me, mainly because there was no way for readers to submit stories yet, and there were also really no readers at that point. It was pretty much just me and Paul Dunne. :-)
The big breakthrough was President's day weekend, in February. I had just gotten story moderation in place, and I went off to New Hampshire to take a break and play in the snow for a few days, leaving the site totally unsupervised. To my amazement, when I got back, there were a dozen new stories, and people were reading and commenting on them! Story moderation had proven itself in my eyes, and the site had run itself for a non-trivial length of time.
Since then, new people just continue to arrive at a pace that I can hardly believe, or explain. But I'm going to take a stab at explaining it anyway, because it's my job to tackle the hard questions around here.
In 1993, Wired magazine was little more than an idea in the creepily implacable Louis Rossetto's head. Anyone who'd like an interesting view of the birth of Wired, from somewhat of an outsider's view, should check out Burn Rate, by Michael Wolff. The gist of it though, was that Wired, in those days, was a postcard from the future, written by people who were already living there. Most of us, at the time, were not, and that's what made Wired so exciting and cool.
While it still has some excellent writing, and still looks uber-hip, Wired has declined in relevance somewhat since then, and my theory is that it's mainly because so many of us now live in the future. Airplane II has a great and apropos line: "We're not living in the past or the present anymore. This is the future." That was hilarious in the early 80's, but now, it's pretty much true. Reading Wired is generally the experience of having people with good writing skills attempt to explain what the newest coolest buzzword is, despite the fact that you've already heard about it. They're still writing postcards from the future, but now we're all there with them. It's kind of like getting a postcard from your next door neighbor that says "Weather is beautiful here in the neighborhood. Wish you were here." when, of course, you are there.
This meandering aside is all by way of introducing what we're about at Kuro5hin. With the recognition that many, if not most, of us now live fully in the "future" introduced by Wired in 1993, K5 is a collective attempt to grok exactly what it means to be where we are. Hence the tagline: "Technology and culture, from the trenches." You, me, most of us are reading this because we are in those trenches, inventing the future, and we probably have something we'd like to say about it. We prefer our technology reports to be about things that are, now, here in the future, not the vapor that we tend to see from those other publications, that are still stuck reporting on an imaginary future that's never going to happen.
But we're not just about technology. One of the things we all share is culture. We may not share the same culture, but it is the nature of humans to participate in some kind of shared experience, even if they don't know it, or want it, or even realize it. Many old-timers here have pointed out that things have gotten a lot more techy and less cultury of late, and that worries me a bit too. This is not "News for Nerds." It's a postcard from the present; a time capsule that we all dig up every day to try to figure out what's going on right now. So please do consider article submissions in that light, and if there's nothing explicitly computer or technology related in a submission, think about what it's actually trying to say about your world, here at the beginning of the next thousand years.
Since I promised to do it, I guess it behooves me to talk about where we're going, as well. I believe that we are making up new rules for how to run a web community. This is not a radical departure from what has come before, but radical departures usually confuse everyone and go nowhere anyway. We're trying to take the next step in what those before us have built. First, the readers were invited to contribute content themselves. That, in itself, was quite a slap in the face of the old new-media model, where an organization merely "allowed" you to discuss content that they provided. Now, K5 has shown that a community where the readers not only contribute, but also select the content that they want to discuss can work, and can, in fact, work better than any number of editorial staffers.
But we still have an awful lot to prove. We need to prove that a web community can remain cohesive and vital, even as it continues to grow, without collapsing under the weight of it's own popularity. We need to prove that different authors with different viewpoints and experiences can collaborate to create content that is better than the sum of what they could do alone. Along the way, I intend to prove that snooping over your shoulders to try to gather information about who you are and what you're interested in is a counterproductive strategy for web advertising, and that by letting the readers tell me what kind of ads they want, and if they even want to see ads at all, we can generally make everyone happier and allow the site to support itself without becoming a propaganda organ for some large consumer goods company.
So when you see that line about "Technology and culture", in your mind, substitute "and/or", and let it expand your view of what kind of site you are qualified to produce. Because you are, in fact, the producers of K5, as well as the consumers. I'm basically just a technician who submits an article now and then, much as Larry Wall, at this point, is a technical writer who submits a patch to perl occasionally. I started this thing, but it's your baby. Don't be afraid to guide it in the directions you want to see it go.