-------- Original Message -------- 
Subject: Re: (void) What the *F* happened to the internet? 
Date: Thu, 10 May 2001 11:01:57 +0100 
From: Simon Wistow <simon@thegestalt.org>

Someone wrote:
> I think there was lots of stuff, back when the Russian coup happened and
> people in Russia were sending e-mails to people in the outside world,
> about how the internet would destroy governments and create freedom for
> all, and a world of peace. And I'm sure people said that about radio and
> the teletype a long time ago.

I read the 'Cluetrain Manifesto' for the first time a while back - I
found it interesting, but for a different reason than I would have found
it interesting 2/3 years ago or whenever it came out first. 

The main theme is that "big business better watch out 'cos if you're not
hip to der 'net you're going to get eaten alive, ha, ha, ha, suckers".
Or something similar anyway. You get the gist.

I remember an ex boss of mine, when I worked for
$online_advertising_company saying that he hoped that one day the Web
would be "just like TV but with lots of channels" and that it would be
great if "you just kept people in your portal and fed them information
which you could get from other peoples' sites and show them stuff you
wanted to show them". He said this with a straight face. No irony. Not
even of the Alannis Morissette flavour. It took all my powers of zen
meditation not to leap across the table and start beating his head
against the table until his eyeballs fell out - I kept hoping that his
spleen would jump up and choke him in a Vogon poetry/HHGttG stylee. Not
that he would have appreciated that because he'd never read it DESPITE
AGENTS. ffs. It's practically blasphemy.

I remember being afraid when it dawned on me how the Net was being
perverted, raped, defiled by corporations. The Cluetrain Manifesto got
it wrong - tragically wrong. In fact it's almost funny how wrong they
got it. (WARNING: bad metaphor) The dinosaur of Big Business didn't get
eaten alive by the small furry rodents that dwelt on the internet. It
sat on them. The Internet didn't change business, business changed the
Internet to suit itself. It was inevitable - the Net costs money to run
and big businesses have money. You can't blame them; 'We' should never
have gone after business in the first place but they did what was
natural when they were attacked - they defended themselves. 

It wasn't till recently that I wasn't unbelievably depressed about this
until, one day, down the pub (naturellement. It either had to be there
or on the, err, throne, that other, err, seat of thinking) a thread of
conversation suddenly made me think of something THIS IS NOT NECESSARILY

Indulge me here for a second. It used to be that you could run a fan
site or an online comic or whatever in your spare time on your home
machine or your college web space. Bandwidth, space, time, whatever were
not really a problem. It was fun. When you only have a few people
visiting your site. When you get more people then it starts to become a
problem but, up until the beginning of the end (arguably the September
that Never Ended [tm]),  there just weren't enough people for it to
actually to be *too much* of a problem. 

Now we see sites shutting down because they just can't afford to keep
going. Or pathetically begging for money. Popbitch had a party which
worked (AFAIK) but for every Popbitch there's a thousand GamerWebs.
You'd never be able to start anything like the IMDB again. This is sad. 

But, when business has finished remodelling the Internet into their own
image the masses will flock (or just never leave) there leaving the rest
of us shuffling round, kicking our heels (WARNING: more bad metaphor,
excessive cheesiness is bad for your health and may damage your unborn
child) under the off ramps of the information superhighway. And it will
be just like it was before. The masses won't want to start rummaging
around in the rag tag collection of unbranded sites that make up our
world. Even if they did they probably wouldn't be able to jump out of
whatever web tv portal gateway digi box walled padded garden system
they've subscribed themselves to - if they do manage it then they've
probably got a clue anyway. 

This is the 'Hinternet' Jo was talking about a while back. The back
alleys and the dark, unregualted bits of the internet. Imagine Gibson's
Chiba City but without the sleazy glamour, drugs, body modifications.
And not written on typewriter. You can kind of see it now, the whole
London nu meeja scene is a fledgling hinternet - NTK, TvGoHome,
Squackers, Haddock, (void), London.pm, slub, slobber  - the same people
(how many? 100? 200? More? Depends on where you stop counting I s'pose)
turning up over and over again on the same few lists, in the same few
companies, at the same parties and clubs and gigs in various different
combinations depending on which particular interests they have. Not
incestuous (Ok, maybe a little) but definitley interconnected.

All this ties in neatly with a conversation I was having last night.
Down the pub, natch. It was The Anchor near London Bridge just off Clink
Street and round the corner from Vinopolis. I was sitting on the wall,
overlooking the river, watching the sun go down and drinking from a jug
of 6X (every pint is like a pint and a half of Castlemaine, har, har,
hardee, har har). I was remembering what it was I liked about London. We
started talking about pure number theory, Omega numbers, transfinite
numbers, Godel's theorem, how Godel's theorem pertained to societies in
general. I mentioned Richard Feynman and renaissance programmers and
(void) and we got onto Leonardo Da Vinci and how, arguably (that word
again) he could have learned all the knowledge that was available at his
time. Or at least a fair chunk of it. But you couldn't do that now, not
even close, probably not even know everything about a particular subject
or sub-subject. But the person who I was talking to, who's involved in
some sort of research or something at City college about this said that
that was Ok, people would just start sharing knowledge. This sounds
obvious but  it can now be done in a way that wasn't previously possible
- societies need to be connected enough to make this disparate
information transfer possible but not so connected that their skill sets
become incestuous. Or something. I was quite pissed at the time and eh
was one of these people who starts explaining stuff that you understand
*perfectly* at the time and then the knowledge evaporates the next
morning and you're left with half remembered strands of what they said.

Anyway, the situation above (the one with the off ramps) is perfect
breeding ground for this sort of idea sharing. Like cold pizza for
bacteria (mmmm, cold pizza). 

This post doesn't have a point. There was one when I started but I've
forgotten it. You can stop reading now. Go, leave, don't you people have
homes to go to?

p.s I'm wearing my NTK 'think dissident' t-shirt. I could have worn the
'They stole our revolution and now we're stealing it back' one but I
don't think we are, I think it's too late for that. I think it was
stolen by our parents 'cos they're too greedy and want another
revolution. So we'll just have to have another one, a revolution within
a revolution. So don't come knocking on our revolution </quote

*cough* yeah, whatever