We few, we happy few

As some of you know, I was on twitter at an opportune hour last week and found myself with a shell account and a little home page at tilde.club.

Things are going much like they did the first time around, twenty years ago. We’re sorting into different — well, not disciplines, exactly, but maybe modes: those who work in code, those who work in words, and the Glyphs.

Words are easiest: blogs, taxonomies, chronicles. We observe and take notes, we paint signs. We’re social animals, in spite of ourselves. Maybe sometimes we hack together scripts pasted in from hasty searches — but only so as to augment our toolchain for cranking out more and better-organized Words.

The coders, too, traffick in information, but by parsing it, plumbing it, and refactoring it for possible future use, seen or unseen — in short, by any other means than simply narrating it.

The Glyphs are a group quite apart. They seem to have little use for all these words — of making many books there is no end is their warning, or rather their implication, for explicit language seems a weariness to them. They make things that wriggle, slide and duck out of the way at the last second. Or, just inanimate symbols. Where actual words are found, they are very nearly meaningless; they mock the purpose of words; they say things without saying them, perhaps because they know that everything has already been said.

What’s great about the plain old web is that it accomodates all these modes of expression easily within the same playground — the hand-assembled web page.

What happened last time? The coders cooked up tons of tools for connecting the words, the writers took advantage of them, all kinds of new Value was created, the advertisers showed up, and the writers and coders of course wanted to be able to afford to spend all day doing their thing so they took the advertisers’ checks if they could get them.

At some point our own tools, freeing us from the tedium of typing any HTML whatsoever by hand, so distanced us from the essential thing, the underlying web, that — perhaps? — these groups grew apart, and now don’t talk to each other as much as they used to. I now occasionally see people who write on the Web for a living confide that they would like to know more about HTML.

I’ve been writing this with a sort of conceit in mind (shared by others) that tilde.club is a microcosm of how the World Wide Web was when it began to take off. But it might also be a microcosm of any economy that moves toward specialization. Tilde.club is refreshing for the same reason that summer camp is refreshing: suddenly we’re not specialists any more. Suddenly the elaborate setups and lifestyles and processes we’ve erected for ourselves are kind of gone and we all eat and go to the bathroom in the same places, and gosh it’s nice weather out.

Help. I’m embarrassed. I’m just too dull to understand the attraction of tilde.club.

You end up posting text & images at yet a different address. It’s charming that they’ve used modern code to look like a circa 1987 dial-up bulletin board, but…

I do miss my 1969 Plymouth Valiant. But I’m not sure I want it back.

Keith ·