Thursday, March 26, 2009

Ahh, yes. I remember it well... Last refuge for the lost.

Waaaaayyyy back in the day, right after I moved to NYC I discovered an online social network. This was a social network of fugitives from the law, writers, misfits, artists, rock stars and geeks. I logged in several times a day and was amazed at what I read. Some of it psychadelic and off the wall but most of it compelling and intelligent. As with all social networks, I, the n00b, posted what I thought at the time, were intelligent ideas on computers, politics, civil rights, books, movies and whatever else came into my scheming and much younger head. I argued and I lost. I argued and I won. But mostly I made friends and learned. 

I learned how to use Internet tools. I learned how some folks hacked and phreaked. I learned how to get along with those I disagreed with. I learned that many of those ideas I did not like were at least as valid as mine and in many cases these discussions caused me to change my mind.  I discovered what I really felt about things by being challenged. It was social. It was lifechanging.

This social network was on the Internet in 1992 however it had no web page - since web browsers had not been invented yet (that would come a year later). In fact, it didn't even have a GUI. just this strange ASCII welcome image:

<((_)) MindVox ((_))>
\- \/(:::::::::)\- \/

I met some very interesting people there. Like voidmstr, the person who would later be quoted for voidmstr's law, "Bandwidth expands to fit the waste available." Also, reive, galt, leq, dross, evan, sassy, and tomwhore. All names in 8 lowercase characters or less as required at the time. I also met some famous people there, like Billy Idol, Wil Wheaton, Charles Platt and Bruce Sterling. But it was the core users of the bandwidth forum on Mindvox and #mindvox on EFnet that made it for me. Smart people. Inciteful people. I knew them and they knew me even though I only ever saw a small handful of them face to face - once - (at a William Gibson reading in Central Park, no less).

The point I am trying to make here, or more factually, the idea my wife  pointed out. Is that it took 17 years for the Internet to realize that social networks are where it is at. Meanwhile, way back in 92' and 93' folks were already aware of this. Mindvox, The Well, Panix. Folks who hung out there, they had social networking down. And the best part was, you networked with folks who, at the begining at least were not friends and acquaintances. It was like a micrcosm of New York City itself. Shoved face to face with a bunch of strangers and forced to deal with them.

I think, all criticisms of the current UI and direction aside, Facebook and others get it all wrong. There is no confrontation with "the other", it is all about you and your homies, your posse, your family. There really is no tolerance for arguement and, like twitter, no space to do it in anyways. 

Well, maybe there is a chance to get back to what mindvox had initially. That cowboy, f%#& You!, "Hell's Angel's of the Internet" type of community. How?

In many ways I fear it's return. I fear that all my memories of it's initial incarnation will disappear in an Ibogaine forum haze.  Or that, more likely, folks will be too busy with life and work and surfing the Tubes of the The Internets to offer real discussion and input worth reading. 

I am hopeful, however.  +)=[ dood! ]=(+

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