July 31, 2008

When Usenet was King

Okay, I don't know that Usenet was ever king, per se, but once upon a time it was a good place to carry on discussions with people with similar interests. Like everything else, it used to be better and more effective than it is. (Doesn't the Beowulf poet say something similar, about how back in "the day" people used to be more heroic? Similarly, my professors always complained about how we students were not as good as students of years past, and professors today say the same thing ... I think it's basically human nature, or the human condition, to dwell on how things ain't what they used to be. This is not--definitely not--to say that it's not true, however... just that it might not be a particularly interesting observation.)

So, uh, Usenet. A newsgroup in which I participated was loosely organized into a gang who performed various informational functions, and mine was to search the rest of Usenet (using Altavista ... is that what it was called? now it would be Google Groups) to find references to a particular musician in other newsgroups and share them with the readers of the group devoted to said musician. This occasionally earned me the ire of people who felt that I was doing something wrong ... but I never quoted without attribution, and after all, what you're posting on a newsgroup is public communication by definition. It didn't stop people from calling me names sometime, though; I think it was the snide commentary, mine and others, that rubbed them the wrong way. Eventually I quit reading that newsgroup, because I realized my admiration for said artist was not strong enough for me to continue in the conversation.

While I was the victim of vitriol from the occasional flamey, phlegmy fanboy, I also enjoyed brief exchanges with some moderately famous people who wrote politely to correct a misperception or to provide a helpful answer to a question I had posed as rhetorical. It shouldn't have surprised me to learn that people's life work actually matters to them, and that they might care what people say about them as much as I care about what people say about me (I don't say "more than," because that's frankly inconceivable). I respect that; people ought to care about their work.

That said, I still think Nicholas Cage is overrated. And Kevin Spacey too. Anthony Hopkins.

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