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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  1. Great Post Bruce.

    I never knew what I missed! Perhaps I'll have a chance to experience Mindvox... 5 days and counting.

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  4. BTW, I have an ra file form the gibson meat if you want. Have nto listened to it in years.

  5. Great post! Thanks for the walk down memory lane...

  6. It's been amusing to see various Voxers re-gather over on Facebook recently -- I'm not holding my breath on the supposed re-launch, but even without that, it's nice to see some echoes of the community linger on...

    - simonm

  7. It's fake. Yesterday it said tomorrow. Look at it now.

    Didn't mindvox do the same april fools joke last year?

  8. I am such a sucker. Last refuge for the gullible

  9. We all spoke too soon. I logged in this morning.

    It is real.

    Now where the hell is the light switch?

  10. did anyone check the source code?


    Oh MindVox! Oh MindVox,
    A poem by Dross

    In the Middling Forests of Three
    There lived a tall, well-knowing Tree
    Whilst Drinking It Said,
    I'd rather Get Head
    Than Have my roots soaked in her Pee.

    Her Pee would Be better,
    And I would not fretter
    As long the next letter ain't
    Spelled with two cups of a "C"
    For Her Pee is much better and
    Tons of Times wetter than the
    Daft little bug called Herpes!

    The tree didn't bet her she wouldn't
    Stay wetter by standing beneath
    An old oak tree

    And instead he just letter, pitter and petter
    And wander his roots with her knee.
    By the look of her fonder,
    It should be no wonder
    Why he said, "Long time no see?"

    ps: Thanks for checking out my source
    code. I put this here because I know a
    general portion of the population needs
    to get a life, (or call me) and if so,
    why not provide some garbage? You
    may have liked to see something
    else here, but not unexpecting a poem
    about a girl pissing on a tree, huh?
    I made it up on the spot just now
    while thinking about the kind of
    peeple that always hit view-source on a
    page, I know i've done it. So that
    concludes this episode of Dross CSS
    Comments Theatre. If you really wish to
    call me, that number is 415.992.8136
    leave a message I'd love to hear you shout
    some vulgar profanities at my secretary.
    Peace, Love and Crackiness.