History & The Wayback Machine

While there is much about our ubiquitously networked world that is beginning to worry me, eg: locked up culture, "digital bookburning" (the disappearance, for whatever reason, of classic websites and communities) and commodification/gamification of community and interpersonal reaction. There is one thing I return to when the digital world looks bleak for me - The Wayback Machine.

MacIDOL on the day I discovered it, 28/01/2004

The golden age of Web 1.0 was communities. Hacker communities, artist communities, all kinds of human social groupings. It's not really my place to say, but I fervently believe the normalisation of LGBTQI life has been massively helped by the interconnection of isolated pockets of queer-positive collectivism via free online forums. The international urbanist movement, that encourages dominance of alternative transport, was able to share, encourage and support each other in their campaigns. The women's movement has benefitted from the Web 1.0. There's a downside, "the fash" got organised, too, but forums and bulletin boards were pocketed and sheltered. Potentially threatened underclass communities developed strong moderation cultures and kept their haters out. It wasn't perfect, perfection is against the second law of thermodynamics - all things wear out, at least some "corruption" is always inevitable, but online silo-communities all had good bones and good fences. They were homes!"

When my "home", MacIDOL.com lapsed into read-only because the second moderator had a life they needed to commit to (and fair enough, too), we all started lurching over to facebook. In reality, it overlapped. Both sites started around the same time, facebook's attraction was being able to be heard outside the walled garden of macidol. Create your song, get review or advice from musician peers, post your new macidol link to your facey timeline. Watch the likes from family, friends and "adoring" fans.

What none of us realised, in moving to facey, was phpBB and Jamroom, the server software that ran MacIDOL, had no manipulation algorithms in them. The communities that software like these built lived or died on like-mindedness. Facebook worked by forcing us to prove who we are and then manipulating us by showing (or not showing) us only that stuff which would trigger us, measuring how triggered we were by our comments. Mark Nadal, creator of gun.js, once wrote "the only thing facebook got write was no downvotes." He's right, it's a good thing, but even that was actually used to hide the manipulation of facebook users.

Within facebook's VERY loose, very arbitary community standards, the downvotes were placed in the comments. People who "liked" stuff were less likely to speak out, haters were gunna hate. Facebook's legacy is gameifying how haters get to hate. Negative reactions tell them more about human interaction than any positive exchange. That metric is quite literally gold. Gold for advertisers, gold for politicians and gold for hate groups. The latter now no longer walled off from vulnerable communities by good admin policies. We're all naked in the street on facebook. And don't get me started on X!

So, I am heartened that there are dedicated achivists, seeking to save old places. The server backends can't be archived, so the forums are just static pages on The Wayback Machine, and in the case of MacIDOL, the music is not archived, probably for copyright reasons, but you can read the sites at different points in history. You can see the communal evolution of like-minded, activist spirits, preserved for posterity. Facebook doesn't allow The Wayback Machine to achive anymore than the login page. It's a walled prison for your existential communication and posterity, not a walled garden. Meta probably even claim any and all copyright they legally can get away with even your artworks, or at least their placement in "their" timeline.

So, here we are, 20 years on from the dawn of both my beloved MacIDOL and of facey, and I can still read what my friends said about each others' tunes on the former, but on the latter, they sank without a trace long ago. You can't search facey by date range, post or any other parameter, really, AFAICR, at least. I no longer facebook. The search engines cannot search facey, the archives cannot archive facey. It was never about privacy or community, it was about stealing the value of the data. It was free because we are the product.

However, this is not meant to be a rant against facebook, it's meant to be a happy memory. So, whatever your "MacIDOL" was, gay.com, crazyguyonabike.com, gunnut.com, tea-and-scones.com, go have a look for it on the wayback machine. It's probably there. You're more than like still there, writ large, in all your youthful vigour. Living memory, long after you and I will no longer be alive. That was the internet's greatest gift to humanity. Our social history recorded as it was played out. That stuff is gold for historians!

It was twenty years ago (and about 6 weeks before) today that Richard "iFingers" Senior taught the band to play... A place where I rediscovered that I was a musician above all. How MacIDOL looked the day I discovered it. MacIdol.com &heart; &heart; &heart;


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