Flutterby™! : 2 decades of Flutterby

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2 decades of Flutterby

2018-02-01 19:51:11.990508+00 by Dan Lyke 5 comments

Some time in February of 1998 (for some reason I didn't log the day or time of the update then), I sent an email to a server that got piped into a script and made very first entry to the Flutterby weblog.

In mid 1997 I was working at Pixar, a Steve Jobs funded company, and Gil Amelio was ousted by the Apple board and Steve stepped in as the interim CEO. You could hear phones ring sequentially down the halls as journalists tried to find Pixar people would would comment, the soap opera potential was high, and this little web site run by Dave Winer called Scripting News had the best coverage of all the latest on this transition.

Dave's company, Frontier, sold this scripting package and some software written in the scripting package, and Scripting News was a site maintained by his software. There were a few other people using that software similarly, but I'd been looking for an excuse to sling Perl so wrote something called Newwwsboy to manage my own site.

Journals had been happening on the web for a while. I was an avid reader of "The Semi- Existence of Bryon". Even in the history of what eventually became known as "weblogs" we generally go back to like a month or two after the founding of the web itself, but somehow that late 1997 early 1998 group of people who started putting reverse chronologically ordered semi-personal links and commentary on the web became a bit of a movement.

It also became a really cool community. Brad Graham and others organized get-togethers. I remember getting together for drinks with the Pyra gang (who created Blogger). Dinners were a fantastic cross-section of people, it wasn't just computer people, it was librarians, theater people, people who's primary identity was "Mom", all pulled together by the feeling that we had this really cool medium to explore.

I think we generally credit Jorn Barger, proprietor of a weblog called "Robot Wisdom", for the term. I remember Cam Barrett (of CamWorld) and I tossing around names like "microportal" and such.

Sometime around 2000 blogging started to become a thing. Blogger went big. LiveJournal got a boost. Comment systems on blogs happened. The marketing folks realized that we were hogging all the cool Google search results and started exploiting the medium for sales, the New York dilettantes played in it and we got dreck like Julie & Julia (The Julia parts of the movie were okay).

And then, of course, the web became its current dross: Search results gamed by machines to remove any sense of personality, and often value. A huge morass of people trying to thrust advertising brochures at you.

My sister once asked me "does it ever bother you that you built all of the things Facebook did, years earlier, but didn't become Facebook"? And, yeah, it kind of does, but I wasn't trying to build Facebook. I had a higher vision for humanity, one that was more about the awesome people connections that we used to build with the network.

I miss those days, and am looking forward to the next place I can chase that dream.

[ related topics: Pixar Jorn Barger Cameron Barrett Apple Computer Humor Psychology, Psychiatry and Personality Content Management Weblogs Dave Winer Animation Movies broadband Perl Open Source tolkien Robotics Invention and Design Software Engineering Theater & Plays Current Events Consumerism and advertising Journalism and Media Work, productivity and environment Graphics Marketing Community New York Archival Rocky Horror Picture Show hubris ]

comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment Re: 2 decades of Flutterby made: 2018-02-02 00:48:09.050716+00 by: DaveP

Congratulations on sticking with it, Dan! You've built a little corner of something or other special here.

#Comment Re: 2 decades of Flutterby made: 2018-02-03 05:26:46.369324+00 by: concept14

Back in 1997 or 1998 I was trying to move a local nonprofit's newsletter online. I was not thinking as big as you--I didn't try to anticipate Facebook. I just knew I needed something like what we eventually got with Wordpress, Joomla, Drupal, etc. IIRC I did develop a system in dBase that would take an article from a text file and stick it into an HTML template to generate a static webpage with all the buttons and links around the text. Of course nothing was customizable without editing the source code.

#Comment Re: 2 decades of Flutterby made: 2018-02-03 05:33:09.658756+00 by: concept14

Huh, it is all still on my current machine. It was Superbase, not dBase. I had no sense of how to use fonts, colors, or layouts. The resource page recommends using the Alta Vista search engine.

#Comment Re: 2 decades of Flutterby made: 2018-02-03 22:12:46.879964+00 by: Dan Lyke

Yeah, I wasn't trying to become Facebook, I was actually kinda dismayed at the notion of centralization, didn't become a MetaFilter member until very recently because I saw the value in distributed systems...

#Comment Re: 2 decades of Flutterby made: 2018-02-05 01:44:42.031645+00 by: markd

Great place you've built here. One of these days I need to meet you in person.

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