Making a website: what is even the point?

This is the first part of something. It is important to me, as a profressional and as a documentarian trying to make sense of everything else that isn’t this thing. So, part one of “Making a website”, in which we answer the question: what is even the point?

Seriously, what is the point?

Have you seen the web lately? It sucks. If corporations are trying to track everything you do at every possible angle, the good side are too worn out or distracted or trying their best to stay “relevant” to the masses… it sucks.

But I grew up in a different time. Not an era or anything, just when I was a young person the web was an academic network that wanted everyone to come and join. And the web was hardly the most used network for me; I spent many an hour scouring gopher holes and ftp sites, or telnet-ing into a random server I found.

The web, though… the WEB! It was so awesome. It still is. I learned how to make websites in school, because they let us use computers to do “research”, and that’s how I spent my time. I could view-source! For someone that never lived in the same place for more than six months, had attended over 20 schools, and didn’t have mentors to coach me, being able to learn by doing, to “flip” the page and see the wires and how their connected, that is a godsend.

So while I was moving every few months, and trying to attend all my classes in high school, being homeless and then getting kicked out of school for the fact, I had the web. And it was only getting better. I didn’t need specialized hardware. I had friends learning music production with ProTools and various related outfits. I learned video production on an Amiga Toaster in school, but couldn’t dream of putting together than setup on my own. In fact, I didn’t own my own computer until I was 22.

And yet, none of that mattered. Because I could go to any library with a computer, go to the spaces I’d set up or were easy to remember. And whenever I found something I’d never seen before, maybe a sidebar or a particularly clever imagemap, I’d immediately see how it was done.

It was my outlet as a hacker, to be sure. You might smirk or openly guffaw at the fact that I used to chug Jolt Cola and always had a copy of 2600 rolled up in my back pocket. But let me tell you something I knew as a child that you might not have: how soda and publications are distributed across the continental United States. I didn’t always have access to a computer as I was tossed from coast to coast, school district to dsitrcit. But if I could track down a magazine/cigar/liquor store/kiosk that sold Jolt and/or 2600, I could at least have that level of control.

Alas, I hardly got to practice those skillz in real life, I never got to access a university mainframe as a child, for instance. But the web… that was my “Gibson” to hack! And the very protocol was born of that ethos, of being open easy to explore and tinker with and break. So once I got access to a bit of web space my mission became clear: I had web power, and that could be used to free information!

Quick aside for n00bs: information wants to be free. Like, a law of metaphysics, or something. We hold it back when it should be free. Except for private information. Except for some private information. Except for nuclear bomb secrets. Okay, it’s not that clear cut, but for the purpose of this story, you get it. Free Kevin!

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Information high

I’ll have to go through some old notebooks and track down the sites or whatever archives are left of them. I would fill floppy after floppy of every hack or phreak text I came across. I would then organize them, waiting for server space of my own to show my own treasure trove.

It’s worth noting that I definitely joined SDF around this time, in a former incarnation. As the website has barely changed since then, visiting is a great snapshot of how websites looked and operated (which is to say simple, ackward, useful and very inconsistent from page to page).

I ran a bunch of sites, just archives of knowledge I’d picked up. That was what the web was for. We just shared knowledge.

And everything after that can get fucked.

The point?

If I stop at that point in time, not in technology, but in purpose and intention, I’m happy. I wanted a document store like MEMEX and Xanadu (and maybe doing LSD with dolphins, but like, one thing at a time, ya know?). I wanted to share information, and find information, and right all the wrongs in the world because everyone would find their civil services and be more informed voters and everyone would recieve a basic understanding of information services…

And maybe I’m naive. Maybe I just need to learn some lessons on my own. But I’d like to try that. I’d like to help folks, instead of exploiting them, and for fuck’s sake, if that doesn’t pan out then how the hell do we move forward?

Sorry, quick side rant: if you could participate with the mere thousands of interesting people you find yourself around, would you need to track the dozens of children you grew up with among the millions of dopamine addicts on your social network? Were there local alternatives? Did we just blow that?

So the point is to build something useful. For people. Useful for people.

Not to:

  • profit
  • collect data
  • build opinions
  • exploit anyone
  • steal energy
  • steal focus
  • steal happiness

Useful for people.

I’m interested in that article about the imprisoned blogger.

I think “the point” right now should be for normal people to reclaim the web and maybe make it closer to what it was.

I want to know all the reasons folks would have. Useful for people is my reason. I am sure there are others, and I want to hear them, so we can view them critically and determine if it works out for us. Obviously the silos and whatnot: no good.

The reason I want to know, by the way, is so I can look for them. I like building websites, I consider it my craft. So if I can practice my craft in a way that helps rather than harms, I am personally fulfilled. :slight_smile: