Saturday, May 10, 2008

Blog, Twitter, chat, snap...who can keep up?

When first I heard of Twitter, it simply sounded like a silly name and yet another thing to have to juggle online.
Let's face it, online life can start to overwhelm that other life. How many more elements of communication can we or need we take on?

Let's see, I started out with bulletin boards in the early 90s but swifty discovered IRC wherein many, many hours were richly consumed. OK, I admit it, I was one of those people with a drawer full of Jolt to swill down so that sleep did not interrupt the thrilling flow of conversation with my mysterious new best friends around the world.
What interesting people they were - and are.

Albiet that those days were full of techno glitschs such as "splits" and hackers and pervs. And, of course, there was the business of getting online at all - through the hiccups of dialup. Oh, what music to the ears was that little chirruping buzz of connection. I still feel a little surge when I hear it. But back then, if someone picked up the phone? Oh no. One's contact with the world was cut. I could not cope with the competition from students and geeks to get phonelines into my young backyard provider of the day, so I paid him to put in a dedicated phone line at his end for me. Thankyou Adrian Corston, for being the best provider of those early days.

Adrian moved on when the big guns began to fire and took me with him - to Internode where I have remained these many long years. They have been good to me and, in my role as a newspaper Internet writer, I was happy to spruik for them and send hundreds of customers their way. Still do. They remain the class act and I am proud of them.

For years, IRC remained a large part of my after-hours life since it is simply a rich world in which I met many good people. Friends for life. But the WWW was growing, email had changed out of sight. When I began it was Pine and it was clunky and nasty - like everything else. Heavens, all those DOS commands one had to key in to make anything happen at all.
Today's net users would never believe how tough and slow it all was. When The Louvre first came online, the first major visual arts entity on the WWW, I could cook a whole dinner in the time it took to download just one image. And I did. Regularly. Feeling richly rewarded at the sheer miracle of seeing that work of art on my computer screen.

As for the coke machine at Berkley - didn't we love waiting for someone to come along and order a coke so we could share in the amazing thrill of being flies on the wall?

A few years later, we all had cams and were talking to strangers and seeing their faces. We even set up live cam websites. I wonder whatever happened to my Sazicam site? Died of neglect?
I will never forget the vet with whom I used to chat in France - who used to turn his cam to the window and show me the magnificent mountains of his world. Magic. More forgettable were the silly wankers who would invite you for a chat only to show their engorged penises.

And here one began to worry about the nature of the Internet. Why did it bring all this ugly sexual frustration into the open? There were stupid pervs messaging one on IRC with obscene proposals. There were exhibitionists flashing on cams. Porn sites were springing up. Porn channels on IRC...
I found this all very demoralising. I am very positive about sex as a natural part of the scheme of things but I find people who have never managed to get their heads to higher planes not just sad and inadequate but intolerably dull.

The preoccupative tedium of the sex players on the Internet really brought the world down. It created issues for use by children. It dominated bandwidth. It made money when nothing else made money. Oh, woe, to lowest common denominators.

The phenomenon has not gone away.

The Internet has liberated not just sex, but a vast world of angry, spiteful morons whose pleasure in life is spamming the Internet with aggressive and ignorance comments, attacking thinking people, honest people, funny people - interesting people with something to say.
The lowest common denominator has found a high niche.

But we old Netizens plough on through the varying morasses, exploring the new applications devised by the brilliance of geekdom.

So, the first communities evolved - IRC groups, The Well, Howard Rheingold's Brainstorms, AOL and then Yahoo groups, web collectives with hobbies, occupations, illnesses in common. And it has not stopped.

Now we have Flickr communities and other photo-based entities, growing blissfully with the evolution of digital cameras and photoshopping. For every development, there is an online expansion. And the blogs, of course, the blogs.

I began this one when writing a feature about them. I figured I needed to have done it to write about it. And them, once I had done it, I had to keep doing it. From time to time.

Now I have three blogs...two here on Blogger and one for the newspaper. Then I have my spots in Brainstorms, which could be a full-time job if one had the time. Rheingold, the master student of the potential for and meaning of online communities, quietly runs the big daddy of them all, having brought together a diversity of people whose lives, interests and opinions are shared to an intense and now long-established degree. Perhaps, despite geography and eclectica, they now are more a family than a community.

And along came Stumbleupon. I love Stumbleupon. It takes longer to get to know one's friends in that medium, but the richness is the sharing of links and webpages, the setting up of blogs which can be just for beauty or just to make a strong point. Or both. Or humour. Or whatever. There's about a million Stumblers out there - 200 of them are on my "friend" list and another few hundred are sort of linked, with more to be discovered. The links we send each other, with or without running commentary, keep us busy reading and responding, and they keep us very well informed. We are powerful as a knowledge gathering and sharing entity. And the foundation of friendships thus forged, has a strong cerebral element.

I tend to be sporadic in all my Internet niches - since my other job in that real world involves a lot of writing in its own right. One can get writ out, so to speak.

And there is all the reading. I have to read a lot of communities...Alternet and Huffington, Salon and Wonkette, friends' blogs

MySpace arrived. I never cared for it. Loud and messy. But the young thrived for a while and the music industry found a powerful meeting place.
Facebook has worked better as community. Well, it is more of a network than a community.
But it has been bringing the communities under its wing - so now we Brainstormers and Stumblers and Flickr community people are networked in Facebook, perchance engaged in killer games of Scrabulous.

And from many levels we converge on one.

Wherein, Twitter rears its chirpy face again.
I had played with it early - and could not really see the point. How much information do we want to put out there? Who are we putting it out there for? Who cares?

Oh yes, I know the conspiracy theorists bristle and run for cover. They are not going to be suckered into all this exposure to the marketing giants. They may have a point.

Then again, we are now enlightened enough to be able to look at ourselves. The Internet was evolved with the idea of the free sharing of knowledge. This is the most wholesome concept there is.
The more knowledge, the healthier the world.

I am not sure how much the minutiae of my movements adds to all of this. Do I tell Twitter that I am happy because I am by the sea? Do I tell it that petrol pump calibrations are criminally rigged? Either or both seems to be the way to go.

I am receiving news bulletins from the media and personal snippets from friends and associates. I think it is all good.
But I am not sure how much is enough.
Or how one keeps up with it all.

Oh, dear, there are 64 Stumbles waiting for me....and did I check my email yet?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

i totally agree that people online are not content to disagree. They have to bellow personal insults.
As if they, themselves, are paragons of some sort. this is some basic trend of being online.