Hello my name is Paul Ford. I set up tilde.club accidentally. You can send me email at ford@ftrain.com.

Update many years later: Some nice people took over tilde.club so it can live again.

my web journal

September 17, 2019

Letter to the tilde.club mailing list.

Hello friends! My name is Paul Ford. I started tilde.club but now am just regular ~ford (still id 501, though). Greetings from the distant past, and please indulge a slightly longer note.

When Mike asked if he could take over tilde.club I thought, "What sort of utterly ridiculous motivation could drive a person to volunteer to be sysadmin for a large group of opinionated creative-tech types who constantly forget how to log in?" Later I realized that described me, too. He was respectful of what people had made on this little server and wanted to see if he could make more fun happen, and that is a great goal. After a reasonable amount of back and forth, and looking around the growing world of the tildeverse, I felt comfortable giving him the (ssh) keys as well as the account backlog of 10,000 aspirants. I mean, what could possibly...

After the new server booted up I was glad to see that one of the first conversations to happen was about setting up a code of conduct, resulting in this GitHub issue: https://github.com/tildeclub/site/issues/2. When you read those other linked tildeverse codes of conduct you see that everyone in this new/old world shares the goal of creating something kind and positive. It's very reassuring.

From my POV, tilde.club was a fun accident that became an all-consuming month of late-night labor, thousands of emails, a lot of overthinking, and at least one (somewhat joking) offer of acquisition. It was also a real nurturing community that was making wonderful things online. But after that month I realized, with regret, that I couldn't give it much more energy. I probably should have given it away then but there wasn't such a clear path. I sent it upstate to live on the shame farm with all the other projects that give me recurring guilt. And kept paying the server bills.

In the intervening years I wrote a lot of articles for a lot of magazines and web publications, and a whole issue of Businessweek called “What Is Code,” which was kind of a breakout. Then I co-founded a digital product company called Postlight with my friend Rich. I still write from time to time, and code, too, but the company, and my twins Abe and Ivy, who are now eight, take almost all my time. The respective learning curves for capitalist CEOing and Brooklyn co-parenting are both steep and involve a certain amount of humiliation and coming up short, yet onward we go.

Enough on me—how great that there's a tildeverse, growing up in the meantime, fueled by like-minded people with their own goals? And that its citizens would want to adopt the original tilde.club and tend to it.

I like very much that we are all peers here. And I want to call a few people out. Tilde.club v0 had a wonderful group of advisors and sysops who stood right up to help me, and I hope you all know I love you very much. Thank you to:

Last bit:

It's been a bad four years, at least emotionally, for a lot of us, especially those of us who love tech and the promise of tech, or for those of us who like...fun. The lesson I take from tilde.club is that you can, at any time, for very little money and relatively little effort, stand up a tiny digital community that basically belongs to itself. And it's just as valid as any other community. I am certain we need more spaces like this, places where you can experiment and be both dumb and kind in equal measure and people either leave you to it, or help you along. So I'm glad this keeps happening, and happy to be a participant.



September 15, 2019

Okay it's been a spell. It's nice to see the tildeverse has happened.

My life doesn't allow for a lot of play these days. Part of getting older, part of running a company, part of being a father. But it's nice to see that this is a place of play and it feels good to have kicked it off.

I'm going to go to bed now. I have to finish an article in the morning.

November 30, 2015

What a year. Not my greatest year. Not my worst, though by any means. I wrote an entire issue of Businessweek and started a large-ish agency. Tilde.club hung out for a while and then went quiet, but for a drunken lark it was pretty great.

I didn't finish the book though, and I didn't launch my timelines/notebook website. Although I did join the gym and get a prescription for anti-anxiety pills, which I take only very rarely.

I've been enjoying reinventing myself as an entrepreneur. I've wanted to do real business for a long time, and you can barely do it in publishing—the odds against you are nightmarish. You can make work for yourself, if you are very very lucky, but you can't make work for other people, nor are there tons of opportunities to collaborate, at least not outside of academia. I like working with friends.

I don't know. I feel calm, somehow. I feel that I can sort of let my ego drift. I just want to finish my book. It's days away from being finished. I've never been blocked on something at that level before, blocks within blocks. Par for the course for books. The great fear is that it will simply be terrible and irrelevant.

Getting some coffee now.

January 11, 2015

Today we went to Grand Central Station with the kids. They looked at a train set and had tantrums. Everyone napped. Now they are back asleep.

My son got to eat chocolate custard and nearly lost his damn mind.

I learned a little more about assembly language and boot loaders.

I migrated all of my email into a searchable form and can manipulate it directly from within emacs. I have a single TODO list in org-mode that works across all of my many projects.

I need to resurrect anxietybox.com by popular demand.

I need to finish my book. I need to go to the gym.

I think it's probably counterproductive to make lists of things I need to do. I mean maybe I am a rock in a river and time flows around me. All I need to do is be that rock, until such a moment as there is some flood that turns me over and washes me away.

How would a rock in the river behave?

Also, what happened to Usenet around here? I miss it.

January 6, 2015


Anyway, I organized my email. I am down to inbox zero. I find that process intensely therapeutic. Also, the things that you might fear the most--those are your remaining ten emails in that inbox. In my case it was: A request to look at some writing; a request for coffee that I felt uncertain about; an email about a conference presentation that I didn't want to make; etc. But dear lord it lightens the load. One after another, slowly erasing. There's a big folder called TILDE:TODO. Anyone who wants to is welcome to work with me to triage it.

Gmail is a lousy interface for true email triage, IMO. I figured out how to make mutt work with gmail and ended up combining mu and mutt. Now I can search email through emacs, which is cool. I can dump my email to text. I can extract all of my attachments.

I played a couple of hours of NetHack, too. Great game.

But ultimately I migrated my life into a single large TODO list. And then I kept boiling it down. The problem is that too many things are just listed as tasks, obligations. No motive. So I have these things like:


Which is just a garbage task, honestly. Who cares about that? The real task is:

* TODO Work with Jason to move tilde.club to DigitalOcean, where we have free space and where I will no longer be the "owner" of tilde.club, thus freeing up money and emotional and psychic space for other activities.

So I've refactored my TODO list into that format. And an awful lot of tasks, when I got to the "why"--a lot of coffees, a lot of meetings--have no "why" associated besides that I don't want to let people down, and most importantly, I don't want to ever give the perception that I value my time more than I value theirs, otherwise my whole system of politeness breaks down. And I genuinely enjoy helping people. But holy shit I have no time.

The thing is I don't want to lose the opportunities that come my way to communicate. I don't want to get into the business of triaging emails and ending threads and cutting people off and making them ask THE REAL QUESTION. I have no interest in becoming an objectified node in some latent social graph, because that is very boring.

Like, if I lose that, if I systematize the way that people communicate with me, if I define rituals and rules and batch my emails and say that coffee can be done during these hours on these days, I lose something, and it's something very important to me.


Don't read old emails.

I returned to a short story I was writing, that I started months ago, over the holiday. A key part of the story is the resurrection of an old social club--that people would have a desire to return and connect with something that was dozens, even hundreds of years old that had been dormant. And while I was writing the story I kept going, I know I have a hunger for this sort of thing, but will anyone else respond? And then I realized that I'd actually done this here, that I'd acted out the narrative.

I also took a job, helping out at a big media company. I sit in a room and move PowerPoint slides around, and I think about the relationship between containerized microservices and large-scale magazine production. It's for a few days a week, just to get my head straight. I guess I'm not a person who can have hobbies. I can just have different kinds of work and activity. Although I like kicking a ball around with my kids.

Anyway, who knows. Here's another open thread in a world of open threads.

December 3, 2014

Needlepoint sent to me by the wonderful ~annika; it now hangs proudly above my desk.

I took some time away from here because I was tired and it was taking a tremendous amount of energy. When you work on projects like this there can be this sense that you must somehow keep it going and I was succumbing to that, which was pretty far afield of the original goal of having some fun and helping other people figure things out.

But it was great to log in after a week or two and see people still logged in, still doing stuff. A slower pace, of course, but that's fine, even good. There's no hurry. Lots of emails to read that are filed in a folder called TILDE; lots of donations to list on the home page. I decided not to feel guilty about it.

This is the email that's going out tonight to the many thousands of people on the waiting list.

Hello there. Some time ago you signed up to join tilde.club, which is just a Linux server on the Internet. This is great--we'd love to have you be part of tilde.club!

EXCEPT for one thing: There are thousands of people on the waiting list now. We can't support them all on one machine.

But other people stepped up. They started their own tilde.club-style servers. (And you can too, using things like puppet-tilde [https://github.com/nathanielksmith/puppet-tilde] or just improvising as you go.) We've started wiring those servers together via chat and Usenet news and (once we've configured it) email. Just like the Internet came together in the 1970s and 1980s.

At this point there are over 20 tilde.club-style servers looking for members. Here's what you do:

  1. Go to this page: http://tilde.club/~pfhawkins/othertildes.html
  2. Pick a club you like.
  3. Sign up using the sign-up link.
  4. Be a little patient, because it's just a person on the other side.

These people will send you instructions on logging in. We'll figure out how to collaborate going forward. Help where you can!

I want each of these little servers to bloom and connect to services. I've decided that, for me, tilde.club is a place to learn and to teach. I'm going to start doing little web workshops, teaching people various things that I know about building sites. Drop me an email if you'd like to be part of this. But please be patient, it may take me weeks or months to respond.

Best wishes,

Paul Ford


October 24, 2014

  1. From the community:
    1. ~sippey asks, why does he immediately start to blog when given a blank web page?
    2. ~shellen is feeling guilt about not updating his tilde page
    3. Other people have said: There's a community here now and I feel that I need to check in and participate.
  2. I don't believe that the web definition of community is the only path.
    1. I believe this is a place where people come to make things and solve problems for themselves and the community is here to help that process. Some people are solving meta-problems of community; some are veering off and making new tilde.clubs, some are learning a little bit about the shell; some are volunteering.
    2. And there is nothing inherent in this project that says anyone should do anything, aside from put up a web page, I guess.
    3. Everything else is coming from the individuals. The guilt, the obligation, the sense of appropriate form. You made that. This is only an attention-driven platform if you make it that way for yourself.
  3. I don't think a blog or more narrative is the optimal outcome.
    1. If you are young and new to Linux and looking for an assigment, a way to make some meaning here, don't think you just need to write. Instead, go find every programming language on this system and learn about each one of them. There are probably dozens of things that qualify. I have no idea!
    2. Maybe write a one-line description of each language.
    3. Or use one of the languages to write a program that makes a web page.
    4. For extra credit, don't write anything---but use the system's own information to write it for you.
    5. I'd like to give you more clues but the more important thing is just learning to poke around.
    6. You don't have to be on this machine. You can do this on any tilde.club.
    7. Anyone who does this, I will make you a huge gold star to put on your page. There's no hurry. Just tell me whenever it's done and I'll make you the gold star.
  4. I booted up a Symbolics Genera Lisp Machine from the early 1990s the other day, emulated.
    1. (If I were writing for a large audience I'd need to unpack that statement but I'm not, and if you're curious just search around.)
    2. I love software and this was one of the most beautifully considered pieces of software I've ever seen. Incredibly simple, unbelievably deep. There is exactly one language, one system, one way of doing things down to the metal.
    3. There was hardly anything there at first; basically a blank template--it was like booting up a Commodore 64, but made by Boeing.
    4. As close to a platonic ideal as you can get.
    5. I barely did anything but the sense of the entire computer being reachable with a single language is mindblowing. And elegant, of course.
    6. It's similar to the Smalltalk Virtual Machine in some ways but LISP has a different culture.
      1. I also just learned that circa 1985 Apple released a version of Smalltalk-80 that today runs on a Mini VMac emulator.
    7. Of course I ran it on top of a virtual machine running Linux through vagrant on my Mac. As beautiful as it was it's not where people went. For many reasons. People didn't hack the web together with tilde accounts on LISP machines.
    8. There's an element to all this that "worse is better" only kind-of covers, which is that programming is a kind of time-shifted performance. You write some code and the user grabs it later and picks it up and plays with it. Unix really nails that. We keep performing Unixness over and over---billions of people now, whether they know it or not. It keeps finding niches. It brings its own audience. LISP was a conversation between geniuses.
    9. That's not as robust as pop culture is, but then again it lasts longer. Very successful businesses typically last a few dozen years before they are absorbed or dispersed. Religions can last for 100+ years, and sometimes thousands. Higher education is somewhere in the middle; most colleges seem to be between 50-150 years old with a few outliers in the 300+ or 500+ year range. LISP has always been considered an academic language and its culture is academic, as is the culture of functional programming in general. But now LISP actually does run anywhere and, via Clojure, is parasitic onto the web via ClojureScript, onto the JVM.
    10. One of the big goals of key people in Silicon Valley's libertarian class is to disrupt education, by which they mean use digital tools to widely distribute course materials and permit mass testing using multiple choice, etc. I think a thing that happens is that Silicon Valley and the world of technology moves so fast that it is obsessed with goals, it can't scale out to 5/10/15 years. (This recent talk by Alan Kay about how The Future Doesn't Have to Be Incremental is what is giving me this particular timeframe.)
      1. Kay is an absolutely brilliant person and a complex thinker who often seems frustrated that people can't see things simply and act on them. Although this talk it seems like much of that frustration was excised. In the talk, he discussues the difference between invention and innovation in that talk.
      2. Put simply, XEROX PARC invented, and very cheaply; Apple innovated, at tremendous cost and profit. But the XEROX PARC inventions generated $40 trillion in the economy. This is real; trillions of dollars sprang from Kay's head (and from Stallman's too, and Ritchie and Kernighan).
      3. And yet Kay and Stallman, they seem to see their work in moral and aesthetic terms, rather than economic terms.
        1. Then again, I think some of my ideas about blogging have showed up in various software tools implemented by others and probably resulted in millions of dollars in lost revenue. If you get there early you can do a lot of damage.
      4. Anyway what I'm getting at here is that this invention/innovation axis actually has another angle. To invent is basically to blow up the culture. PARC said: Here, use this Xerox ALTO and work in an entirely new way in 1974. It's prohibitively expensive and no one else does it. Apple said, a full ten years later: PING! Welcome to Macintosh. It's not THAT expensive and everyone wants one. With a million-dollar Ridley-Scott produced ad about smashing IBM and claiming a countercultural role for itself. To invent is inevitably to destroy. To innovate is to refine and restructure culture along existing lines. It's additive.
      5. So while Apple did amazing technological work on that original Macintosh, including some heroic feats of assembly language, the other major component was narrative. It crafted a cultural story about the Mac that made perfect sense within the larger culture. It funneled the destructive aspects of the invention into a narrative about destroying IBM, which at that point was the portrait of the soulless corporation (the Bell System was about to dismantle at the point too).
      6. I wonder if the reason that "1984" commercial is so famous is not just its production values but it proxied technological anxiety into a very familiar narrative about big brother and technological control, and set up a counter-narrative in which a happy little Mac puttered around its garden. All Hobbity-like.
      7. So now we're back to Leo Marx a little, the irony being that "The Machine in the Garden" is the focus of the story; the machine is no longer interrupting the American pastoral scene but actually represents a new kind of pastoral.
      8. I mean that is Tilde.club, right? The Old Internet as Pastoral Refuge. I keep thinking of it as a summer cabin, a place to hang, a fling.
    11. The part of product work that I love--I guess you could call what I do product work--is when you've created a totally new data model, something away from the document, and you're viewing it, interacting with it, and you can feel your mind rearranging. It's the most emotional damn moment and almost no one can share it, when you see the hideous thing limp onto the screen for the first time and it is dancing and moving and has its own tiny digital ant-like consciousness, seeing the widgets become aware of the other widgets and realizing that the thing you made is a bigger thing than you are.
    12. I get it when I'm writing, too, it's like when the nurse keeps jabbing your arm and finally gets that vein and the little plastic tube fills with blood in a quarter-second. Whoosh. The jabbing is over. All I need to do is sit here and bleed.
    13. It's a very interesting time. All times are interesting but the threads that obsess me are all getting tangled. The culture people can't talk about tech and the rituals of tech and the tech people really struggle to understand culture.
      1. One broad way of looking at it: The culture people are obsessed with artifacts like books and movies, that reveal the nature of the culture. The tech people are obsessed with creating a culture that creates better and more meaningful, more valuable systems.
      2. That's not it, quite. I don't know.
    14. Anyway coming back to that sense of guilt that people are expressing, it's a funny thing because I feel less and less guilt. When this started I felt immediately beholden to it, but the appearance of new tilde boxen and the fact that the people here just keep doing their own stuff, the pace sometimes slowing, sometimes speeding, is quite reassuring. So I'm using tilde.club to think through some ideas about short chunks of text. I'm working on an experimental story and the idea is that I'll chunk it into sentences and then parse the whole thing into a big trie structure and the story will keep showing parts of itself. So I'm writing it for search. Here is a section of the story:
      1. John has a secret. The secret is that he is a ghost. As a ghost John lacks basic voting and property rights. John is a ghost who is seeking basic voting and property rights. John lives in a small ghost hut the size of a walnut inside an old chest. When he is in the mood to leave John exits through cracks in the walnut and drifts through the keyhole of the chest. John is not much for haunting but can do it when asked or when in a particular mood. Most of John's haunting is simple whistling. One day John received a ghost telegram inviting him to meet with a consortium of ghosts to discuss some important issues of ghost policy.
    15. The idea is that you won't read the whole thing but will rather search through it and see various parts. I'm not sure I will finish or release it. This might be as far as it ever gets. The general hypothesis is that by repetitive use of given words I can create a narrative that will respond to search-driven exploration. And the reader will be able to unfold as much or as little of the story as they choose. It's a little tiny bit like interactive fiction in some ways, especially the way that Inform 7 went, but without all the programming or interactivity. The whole thing has about an hour of work into it so far and maybe will get three-four hours over the next two weeks.
    16. The ultimate idea is that I'd like to start writing more, but flat text is kind of hard for readers. Unless I edit it. If I edit very carefully then I can make it fun to read 3,000 or 10,000 words but I don't want to do that with everything I do. I want to have a place where I can just throw stuff out and give it a home and people can find their way through it without having to read every word. Maybe it can be absorbed into other corporate, too. People including me. I have 25 gigs of email and a million or two words that I've written floating around and I keep repeating myself but I don't even know how I am repeating myself.
    17. So ultimately this is a notebook format, a way to pre-seed the pathways that people may take but not too much. Because I know about myself that the pathways my brain takes when telling a story can be a little turtuous and I want to help the reader but I also want to just get some stuff done and out. Like I got trapped in this world where I either write for national magazines or at tweet length and there's no good place to just do interesting brain dumps, and as you can see when I allow myself to just write for an hour it quickly veers into the unusable. Like this is a fun little thing I'm doing with the lists, here on tilde.club, but ultimately it's write-only, like Perl. The number of people who share my referents (Leo Marx and LISP Machines) is vanishingly small, and I know most of them personally, and the last thing they want to do is read this shit.
    18. So I want to actually preserve some of that, preserve the pathways a little, but make an interface. Like, an interface to my own thought process. And it will probably all become part of Unscroll, I'm headed back in that direction.
    19. You earn an audience; you don't really have an audience. And so what tools can I give them to help them make sense of me, to make myself more usable, and yet still remain honest towards them?
    20. Like the work of a critic is to create a critical apparatus that anyone can pick up and use.
    21. There's all sorts of things we can do with words and language that have tremendous functionality and can even support a native advertising strategy. But the problem is that the narrative around this kind of thinking is really rough. There's barely any path from invention to innovation, not even a ten-year path.
    22. Sometimes it's nice to just write for myself in public and not worry about if it makes a bit of sense to anyone else.
    23. Sometimes you know, when your mind is racing, you just want to look out the window and say, "keep up."

    October 20, 2014

    1. All is well. There are a panoply of tilde.clubs coming online each in their own way in their own image.
    2. People seem to have strong opinions about what this is and what it isn't. There's been press coverage of it, too. Blog posts written.
    3. It really is just a computer on the Internet;
    4. or rather, 12-14 computers now. One in Germany, one in Iceland. Each with a handful of people or a few dozen or hundred.
    5. We have Usenet working. People are speaking between the servers. Tilde.town and tilde.club. It's rough but getting there. Once it's further along we'll document it.
    6. Before long if you want your own tilde.club you'll just...start up a server. A couple clicks. Everything will be ready. You'll connect into the network. You and your friends and maybe your friends friends. If you want. That seems to be the direction it's heading. Read a couple pages of instructions and jump in. Maybe there will be radical feminist tildes with no men welcome. Maybe there will be big gay tildes. That's interesting to contemplate.
    7. It can be really healthy to reboot every now and then. This is why people write many books instead of one big book. It is actively against the interests of large for-profit networks to let you reboot. That's a nightmare for them. They want real names and consistency.
    8. I don't. I get bored very easily.
    9. I like that I don't have to check email or worry about the chat logs or even read Usenet here to keep up. There's no sense of "keeping up." There's nothing to miss out on really because the wheel turns once a day or two as people update their websites.
    10. I'm learning a tremendous amount from my peers, from how people see this. They see it differently than me. It's a mirror.
    11. I've learned that despite knowing better I've misunderstood Unix all these years. I've always thought, Unix is a collection of tiny commands that can be stitched together. But it's really about the stitching itself: Abstractions for inputs, outputs, and for creating pipelines of transformations until you get the information you need.

    October 14, 2014

    1. Taking a quick breath, the health of this...project...is okay. We have:

      1. Solid leadership team with a diverse range of experiences that hangs back.
      2. Incredibly enthusiastic user base.
      3. People are changing 4-5 web pages per hour here; more when you factor in external tilde clubs.
      4. Box is running fine.
      5. IRC and Usenet are provided and mail works, all cut off from the main Internet, which means cut off from drama.
      6. Documentation growing.
      7. Eager volunteer base that delivers and is respectful.
      8. Fully decentralized servers coming online along this model almost every day.
      9. Costs low, team still basically happy to be involved, no one besides me feeling too overburdened and I'm even chilling. Started just saying no a lot more.
    2. I mean there's some drama here and there and endless spiralling issue chains and people worried about things that didn't happen. And not that things won't explode into ten billion flames at any moment. The way I look at it, this gives me something to brace against when the flame deluge transpires.
    3. Usenet works. So does NetHack.

    October 13, 2014

    1. I was writing this in an email and decided it was a journal entry.
      1. Since I was already in my text editor writing the email I just opened up my index.html and pasted in the text.
      2. Nothing is that fluid on the web. You can't take the textbox from Gmail and move it to WordPress. You can cut and paste, but that's different.
      3. What I just did is more akin to writing in Gmail and then opening a whole new browser set to WordPress, with the blog post already in a "new post" textbox.
    2. When I save this file it will be automatically on the Internet, not "published," just live. When I quit this "buffer" I will be back in my email program and can send the email. Everything I am doing is "on the Internet" with no intermediary process.
    3. I have been thinking about territories.
      1. I have a goal in all of my writing and coding work which I can summarize with one ridiculous theory-sounding word, "Deterritorialization." Pointing out cultural territories that have outlived their usefulness. Because they are exhausting and create mental models that are more about not stepping on people's toes than about doing good work for people. Just the idea of "interdisciplinary studies" is insane when you think about it. Or "genre literature" as opposed to "fine literature." There is no more inherit merit in the story of a man raising horses sensitively-but-firmly than there is in stories about big spaceships. But people are always trying to say there is. Defending their territories.
      2. The first time I set up a public Linux server, in 1995, the college IT department lost its mind. They wanted to throw me off the network. They had given me a perfectly good Windows NT box that was basically impossible to use remotely except from another Windows machine and I had gone ahead and installed this unholy monstrosity unto the network for serving web pages, which were suspect entities. I still remember that weird fury; I couldn't figure it out. It wasn't their computer. It belonged to the college of Liberal Arts & Sciences. What was so enraging about Linux?
      3. Humans are territorial animals and digital territory is troublingly infinite. We constantly impose boundaries on digital things so that we can control them. This sort of effort is basically approaching parody now that we are in this phase of Moore's law. They gave us incredibly cheap Unix supercomputers and we created bitcoin. And app stores. A big chunk of "Internet culture" in the last decade has just been weird jokes gone awry--Wikipedia was supposed to be the dummy-built online encyclopedia while NuPedia would be the one for grownups and experts. 4Chan was supposed to discuss anime and exploded into a carnival of pain. Etc. Reddit was supposed to...something...and became alt.binaries.*.
      4. What would it cost to give everyone on earth a shell account on a shared Unix machine? Given:
        1. Moore's Law,
        2. people running old computers on their home networks and sharing access,
        3. the number of people who wouldn't bother with logging in,
        4. stuff like Raspberry Pis getting ever-cheaper,
        5. the downward price pressure in cloud computing,
        6. and ever-more bandwidth,
        the number is somewhere (scratches in spreadsheet) between $0 and $100 million a year. For some approximating of earth, assuming everyone could support each other. Every year it gets dramatically cheaper. This reasoning doesn't include labor or connections or any of the other stuff that would put the cost into the billions. It's just a number to think about in order to understand the way things are going.
      5. I like to think of each new tildeclub as a spaceship going off to colonize a new planet with a few hundred people within. There are six now. I don't know what's going on inside of them. Some of those that pop up are going to crash, some will go full cannibal, some may become abodes of joy, but there's basically no way to control any of it once they leave the launchpad. We can just wait for their emails.
      6. Individuals running servers will decide for themselves how to connect back to other services and servers, as long as there's a list of those servers somewhere, or multiple lists. Beacons and links. People will call in because people like to know what's going on. If they don't want to know, more power to them and godspeed.
      7. I need to remember that we are also, ourselves, in space, traveling away from the old, familiar planet.

      October 12, 2014

      1. I have a cold and deadlines. Tilde.club will be fine no matter what I do. I enjoy watching people figure that out, that they can just start their own servers. We can figure out how to connect everyone up later. The most important thing is that they do it. That they start up the server, make the web page, send the email. Make the pocket world you desire and see if anyone else wants to share in it. In the meantime we have tons of open issues on github.
      2. I am writing longer emails to tilde.club people than I write elsewhere. More complex thoughts. There's no audience but the other person. I haven't written emails like this in 20 years. I missed it a lot. I haven't changed as much as the tools changed around me.
      3. My friend Tom died last week and I found out yesterday.
        1. He was 73. He had a good life. We had fallen out of touch; I kept meaning to reconnect. I am sad I did not do that now. I would have liked to known him better, these last few years.
        2. I started hanging out with him when I was twelve or thirteen. I'd call him and ask I could come over and usually he'd say yes. There were always people in his house. College students and wanderers, rich and poor. Women and men. I've never met anyone quite like him.
        3. He taught communications at the local state college in the town where I grew up. Sometimes he would go away for a few weeks and come back and it would turn out that he had somehow been hanging out with the Dalai Lama videotaping a festival in Indiana. He was proud of that. He made me a fridge magnet of him and the Dalai Lama hanging out smiling. The Dalai Lama gave Tom a scarf. This all seemed pretty normal when you knew him.
        4. He was a Christian Scientist.
        5. Once he showed up in NYC with a Buddhist man from the Bahamas who wore a long white robe with an elephant pendant. There was a protest near the UN. So we all went to that.
        6. When someone dies I search my email for them. Tom wasn't big on email but I did manage some domains for him in 2000.
        7. He lived in an old house and always had two or three tenants. It was an old-fashioned arrangement, a bunch of bachelors. His obituary recognizes a woman as his life partner. I knew her and I'm glad that she is being recognized that way.
        8. I wrote my college application essay about him.
        9. He was a big Amiga user and owned the first Amiga computer in West Chester, Pennsylvania. He was a big part of the early Video Toaster community. When he wasn't a professor he had a side business as a videographer, and he was incredibly early about using home computers for video editing. The last time we hung out for real he and I and another Amiga enthusiast all went down to an Amiga event around 2005? 2003? It was amazing. Dudes with Amiga stuff woven into their beards.
        10. I invited him to my wedding and he couldn't come. I was sad about that but I hadn't really kept in touch.
        11. I kept wanting to reach out after the kids were born but I think that, because he helped me through some of the saddest parts of my life, I didn't want to reconnect. It would mean playing out a bunch of human misery and mental illness-related disaster that I have no will to replay or process. I didn't particularly want to be a boy, 12-15, sitting on that porch again talking about myself. Which cost me the connection with a person I loved. That happens, I know. That is life.
        12. How gracious a person he was to listen then, though. Can I be as patient when someone needs me? As interested? Or will I be reaching for my phone?
        13. When my wife and I couldn't conceive a child I thought of him. "We can have an open door," I said. "There are always people who need you to hear them. Children and adults." I seriously considered how we were going to move to a place with a porch. Or maybe do more social work. And then we had the kids and I haven't had time to have an open door.
        14. He lived a very full life and he was at times like a father to me, in a loosely connected way. He did not tell me how to be, didn't put his foot down like a father. He listened like you'd hope a father would listen, though.
        15. Tom didn't want a memorial service, according to the obituary.
        16. When I was 20 he called me at college. He had some bad news. Another one of the boys from his porch, Ben, had died in a gun accident. Who knows what I said. I didn't have a ton of experience of death at that point. Something like, "that is so terrible and I know you were close with him, and I'm so sorry."
        17. "It was good to have known him," Tom said.
        18. That was 20 years ago.
        19. I was in Vegas with him once. He didn't gamble, never had a drink. He said, "let me buy us dinner," played one slot machine, and won $50.
        20. I understand why Tom didn't want a memorial service, but I wish he had allowed for one; I wish he'd given us the opportunity to fuss over him as he left the building. It would have been hundreds of people. It would have been hilarious because he was fun and he did ridiculous things and showed up all sorts of places.
        21. He wouldn't want that love directed at him, though. Especially after his death. He'd want it pointed outward, where it could do more good.
        22. I say, "it was good to have known him," every time someone dies. It's the best thing to say, in my opinion. A little secret statement while everyone is grieving and rending garments and saying "I can't believe she's gone." A reframing of what life is for. A selfish statement really: I knew this person! He or she made my life more interesting! Given that we are each only a vest-pocket version of the universe, that we can never truly know each other or be each other, it's the most honest thing you can say.
        23. I wish all the regular things that one wishes. I regret the regrets. I think all the requisite thoughts about the shape of my life until I am 73.
        24. He had enough. You never got the sense that he was lacking for anything, craving anything except for time, and for his video project deadlines to go away. He was frequently late on projects. I think he had a little money somewhere and he was careful about it, and he used that to buy himself a sort of absolute personal freedom.
        25. He was a tremendous mess. Stacks of everything. All cool stuff. Great photos he'd taken, floppy disks, computer parts, just a sort of amazing chaos. I just wanted to paw through it. Big stacks of adult creative insanity.
        26. I hope he went out laughing.
        27. Man did he save my life.
        28. I don't know how he went out. You never know until that point a few weeks or a month later where you hear: Heart, cancer, complications of something.
        29. My friend saw him in a parking lot a year ago. "He looked fine. Older, but fine. Sometimes he called. He always asked how you were doing."
        30. That's the network right? Tom asking Jim how Paul was doing. Paul checking in on Tom through Jim. Humans holding each other in reserve, storing each other up, distributing each other slowly through words and actions.
        31. Lives don't have lessons. Lives have other lives.
        32. Sometimes the lines between people aren't clear or direct. Sometimes they get snapped and you keep meaning to fix them. But the news filters out; I knew that Tom was fine until I learned that he was gone. It only took a few days from that event until I learned. The old network runs fine, over whatever communications platform people choose (I learned via email). What is human life if not one big redundant backup system for consciousness, animated by love?
        33. It was good to have known him.

      October 11, 2014

      1. ~harper asked, what is the goal of tilde.club?
        1. I don't have an answer. As the accidental creator I should think about it.
        2. I have ideas, they are fuzzy.
        3. I believe it to be about teaching? Playing? Empowerment?
      2. There is a complex discussion going on around here about whether the wall chats should be logged to a public web page. It's surprisingly tricky. There seem to be two groups that are coming from different places:
        1. One group of people work from an assumption that online community is natively powerful. That community is guided by documented norms around inclusiveness, respect, and privacy. They (may) believe the community is the source of empowerment and that technology should support the community.
        2. One group of people who work from an assumption that digital technology is natively powerful. The form of the community is guided by the capabilities of the technologies at hand. They (may) believe the technology is the source of empowerment and that the community will evolve based on the technology offered.
      3. No one is truly orthodox one way or the other, but there are definitely people who lean one way or the other.
        1. I lean in the direction of the second type, the technology-creates-culture folks, so I need to listen hard to the culture-defines-technology group.
        2. For example, compare my comment here with ~jessamyn's reply.
        3. I've been giving a lot of "great job" replies to volunteers because I really want everyone to feel great about being here and helping the community. But I found myself reversing position on a technical issue about ~/.public files because I had been reflexively positive but not considered long-term what it would break.
        4. This lack of directness is not good for those individuals or for the community.
        5. Some people--a minority of people on the server--are hungry for this particular community. For now I am the de-facto leader here and I should own that and manage it and treat it with respect. Treat it as a trust for the next person, maybe? Assuming this project lasts another week?
      4. I see a lot of people playfully trying to recreate the outside world--remake Twitter, remake Tumblr, recreate the privacy policies and codes of conduct--from outside of tilde.club.
        1. I'm not arguing against it. I feel the same urge.
        2. I don't know what people should be doing instead.
        3. It's just worth observing.
        4. Many of us, absolutely including me, came here to hide out, and immediately set to re-creating the things we were hiding from. Sometimes in jest, sometimes in earnest.
      5. I am learning an enormous amount from my fellow sysops.
      6. Culture is hard to scale to millions of users. What works?
        1. Political parties.
        2. Religions.
        3. Stories on television.
        4. A very few books and magazines.
        5. Pop music.
        6. Operating systems.
        7. Software distributed over the web.
        8. Viral media.
        9. Salty snacks.
        10. Candy bars.
        11. Public libraries.
        12. Jokes.
        13. Brands.
      7. Scaling culture and scaling technology are different talents and they don't always line up in the same way. That's kind of why we're in the mess we're in. We do things with computers and assume the people will follow. People make up their own minds and do their own things. Some people celebrate that as a sort of unintended consequence of tech; other people question the design of the system.
      8. It's going to take a long time to work that out. We have a mechanism for discussion by having the FAQ in github. Any one can contribute or should. It is highly learnable, but it adds a barrier to people being part of that process. Is that okay? What is "okay" in this context? Okay on the web is "really easy to get started and everyone can be part of it if they follow the rules."
      9. Short-term I guess we need to decide whether to take down the public log of the wall chat. I like having it because it's convenient. I like seeing what people say. People have told me it makes them feel less safe. The most important thing is that there be clarity and it is on me to provide that. I'm not providing it right now. I am going slow because everything is moving really fast here.
      10. There are 5,000+ people on the waiting list.
      11. There are three? Four? Five? New tilde.club-style Unix machines online now, looking for users. Someone has volunteered to be dispatch. I have no involvement with those servers. They are wholly unique.
        1. I love that they will go off and start their own things and report back. What makes this work? What makes it fail?
        2. When we say we want a better web what do we mean? Better people? Better technology? Better download times? Better mobile experience? Better human relationships? Smarter people making better decisions more rapidly? Easier, or more humane?

      October 10, 2014

      I wrote about tilde.club for the Message on Medium.

      My therapist is not impressed with tilde.club. He pointed out that I have some serious obligations to provide for my family and a tendency to prioritize things incorrectly. Perhaps tilde.club is a place for me to hide from things I don't want to deal with?


      He's an excellent therapist with 40 years of clinical experience. He has kids in their 30s who love and respect them and he talks about that, which is one of the reasons I see him, because that's what I want for my own life: He's 65 and four days a week he goes to work at his small therapy business, which he loves, and then he goes home to a wife whom he loves, and is in steady touch with his adult children. That's a good outcome for a human life and perhaps I can achieve that. However, he is terrible with computers. It took about half the session just to explain what had happened.

      "Look," he said. "You have these priorities: Your family. Making money. Tracking your weight and managing your compulsive eating. Writing your book. Plus the articles you write to keep revenue coming in. And building your timeline website, which I understand is different from this new website?"

      "Yes!" I said. "It is different but the new thing is not so much a website as a single Unix server on the Internet."

      He was silent.

      "Thousands of people want to join it," I said. "And a wonderful team has come together. It's not even mine any more. Tilde.club is for the people."

      "I don't care about thousands of people," he said.

      I mean, he's right.

      As the session ended, he said: "Do you mind if I ask you--my home computer is a mess."

      "Sure," I said.

      "My computer has become incredibly slow. Is it possible that--my wife thinks it's because I burned out its--engine?--playing too much Snood?"

      I explained that no, it was not Snood holding his computer back. He should play as much Snood as he can.

      All of us have a long way to go, right? And we never get there.

      Random thoughts

      • The sysop cabal now exists and is ~delfuego ~dphiffer ~jessamyn ~pepper ~djacobs ~harper and ~rusher.
      • Many other people stepped up but I chose to work with people I personally know, since there are a ton of security issues and privacy issues and I don't have the bandwidth to create per-human collaboration strategies. We need the help, though. It's just going to take a while to react to everything and get working channels of communication. I have people asking me things on Twitter and email and tilde.club email etc.
      • ~droob and some other folks--i wrote it down and now can't find it--are working on a tech stack and guidelines for teaching classes on this thing. Sharing sessions, chatting, following syllabi, etc. So that we can hook people up to learn about tech on the box.
      • So that we can teach people how to teach people who want to teach people to fish, so those people can teach people to fish.
      • All that said, I am no longer the router for this group. They self-assembled and are solving problems and helping users without waiting for me. Most of the action is in the github repo comments. If I died tomorrow or got the vapours, tilde.club would be fine.
      • Oh, except for the Google doc with the waitlist. I need to share that carefully, but it has a loooot of email addresses in it.
      • Transparency is a major goal of the shadowy cabal. Transparency takes time. No one in the group has a lot of time. So transparency will probably take even more time than transparency usually takes.
      • ~harper asked: Wait, are we trying to be Dreamhost? Fuuuuuck no. We are trying to be a cool box to hang with friends. "How do we scale" is a bad question that is the default question in tech. I don't know what the right question is. How do we share? How do we hug? How do we make a record of what we learned? How do we help? How do we prod? What is the mission? If LDAP is the answer then we asked the wrong question.
      • Not how should we grow but why should we grow.
      • Looking at the cabal it turns out the nerds best known to me are realllly a lot of white dudes. And looking at the signup sheet, this community def. is going to be okay on white dudes. We're nailing it, white-dudewise. But Unix is for everyone. It's like the Sistine Chapel or Angkor Wat. It's bigger than the culture that made it. It's for our servers and our phones and it's for all the genders and all the races and most of all Unix is for the children.
      • I've really enjoyed being on the sidelines going "wow technology has some serious problems when it comes to diversity" all lefty and smug and now it's my problem too and I will end up disappointing and enraging so many people no matter what I do because that's the way it goes. LOL good burn, universe. I figured if you (talking to the universe here) turned me into a hypocrite you'd at least give me some money to soften the blow but no. Slick. You really are indifferent.
      • 4,000 people want to be part of this. Another hundred more every couple hours. I didn't help things by writing that Medium article but that is literally how I keep actual real food on the table, by writing for money. Easy to see it getting to 10,000 people, that waitlist. I dunno. Maybe we should charge everyone $10 to weed people out--that would probably cut the list by an order of magnitude or more, reduce troll potential, cover legal fees, and invest people. Becoming a not-for-profit is a nightmare. Who knows. They are names on a list. They're not my kids, or my bosses. They are smart enough to figure it out on their own if I could just figure out how to introduce them to each other.
      • I don't have a way to track people who want to help.

      • That's enough for today. I have to get back to my job. Solutions will come or they won't.


      October 6, 2014

      I've been hankering to return to the old lo-fi form of writing that I used to do on the web, where I was free to pursue forms of expression without worrying about marketability and reach of said forms. A tremendous amount of my time as a professional writer is spent smoothing and explaining things to a mass audience. And so this can be a place where I can write about myself frankly and not worry about it getting shot out over networks or forced down people's gullets or seen as some extension of my personal brand platform.

      It's been an interesting few days. I think this, meaning tilde.club, will settle down here a little, contract and calm down. At the same time there are hundreds of people who want in, in addition to the 600 people who are here. Friends want to bring friends. It's very hard for people to understand why they are being excluded and what this is. I didn't consider that when I started this, of course--that people would end up feeling left out and resentful. Because I didn't expect anyone to want in.

      Sometimes I forget that people use computers but don't understand computers, because computing is not inherently interesting to them. That's fair; my wife works in construction and when she talks about concrete I become faint with exhaustion but I am also very happy to live in large, safe concrete structures.

      That said, people don't understand how incredibly cheap and modern a typical cloud-based computer is; the interface may appear ancient but this tiny computer is exceptionally modern in every regard and undergirds the largest and most powerful web services ala Google, Twitter, etc. Culturally the language around Unix machines and web servers has not really become part of how people talk about modern network technology; they think in products and services and maybe APIs if they are fancy but the system itself is taken for granted.

      So! In any case I have a lot of help and numerous people functioning as sysops, and more people who are willing to help. Plus donations. Server costs are covered for many months. And I'm writing a book of literary essays on web pages; that's actually supposed to be my real project at the moment.

      I sort of want to publicly say where I am at. I don't know why I want to do this except something about seeing a terminal open and a text editor running puts me in a semi-confessional frame. And this is a good place to do it because it's got that mix of public/private that made the early web so great; people will only find it if they want to read it and it will never pester them otherwise.

      I'm less nostalgic for old kinds of HTML than for the part of myself that was young and fearless and desperate to connect to the wider world. I get a kick out of the under construction images but, I mean, they actually are hosted and served on a perfectly modern boxes into browsers that are essentially virtualized supercomputers.

      I've been using Unix systems continually since 1993 and they were old then. I'll be using them until I die, very likely; it's what I like to type into and there's likely to be some form of it around for decades. So for me this is less about nostalgia than return to form--there's been this immense flowering of system architectures in the world, but you can log in to a Linux Box and you're back to blunt talk and bash scripts, first principles. Do little things and build them into big things, one script at a time. Unix was meant to run on large, general-purpose industrial equipment and that legacy shows through. You use it control typesetting equipment and refrigeration systems. In any case: Some people may be having a flirtation with their college girlfriends, and good for them, but I've been here all along (along with tens of thousands of other nerds in the industry).


      I don't know where that 5A came from but I like it.)

      About a year and a half ago I left a well-paying consulting job to write a book of literary essays about how the web page changed culture for FSG. FSG is the best publishing house. I melted down a little upon getting the contract but didn't panic. But then I realized I was good and truly blocked. I'd never really had writer's block before. The writing I was doing was pretty bad. I couldn't make it gel. My editor was patient but I was furious with myself.

      Well, I thought, I'd better make something then. I've never been the kind of writer who learns by interviewing people. I write essays based on how I synthesize the world. So, I thought, I'd better make some web pages. Because the web has changed so much--the web page has changed so much--that I need to go deep.

      I didn't know quite how much the web had changed. It has changed so much that it's basically unrecognizable; the roots of HTML are here on tilde.club and people are playing, but the reality is that HTML5+JavaScript+CSS+W3C standards are a way of describing and exchanging incredibly complex application states between servers and clients. This is a major transition from the web of publishing where I used to work and where I was consulting. I've come to understand and respect it over the last eighteen months, that cultural change. I have a better sense of where it comes from and why it happened.

      So that I might understand the subject of the web more fully, I built a site. And I went down yet another rabbit-hole--so I'm already down a rabbit hole with the book but now I go down one with the website, it is sort of rabbit-hole inception--to make a timeline of history that is also a content management system. That's called unscroll.com. I presented it very briefly at the XOXO conference. If you'd like to see a video here it goes:

      But the basic idea is that Unscroll is a tool I can use to do all of my writing and thinking, so that I will actually be able to write my book using Unscroll. I'm writing a book about web pages so I made some web pages that will help me write the book. This is perfectly logical Internet thinking. Since the book and website are taking so long I have had to branch out and am making my living by writing articles for national magazines, and all of those articles are late which makes the book and the website later. I also consult for a few companies and built out a web archive for a magazine that has yet to be released. And I'm a father, of course. I always make time for that even while my brain is filled with spinning spirals.

      In any case I started tilde.club. And it burst out in a very unexpected way, with several handfuls of people making things and finding joy. In the backchannel, dozens and dozens of offers of support, and stories of people meeting each other in the flesh to say hello, people building their first websites and feeling proud.

      I believe very strongly that you preserve joy at any cost when it appears, and can trust it to come back to you. I have plenty of experience to confirm that this is absolutely true, too, that if you don't worry about money or influence but just try to help people do the thing that is the funniest thing to do it all shuffles into place and your life becomes happier in bizarre and subtle ways. And tilde.club makes a wonderful conclusion for my book; this is a story I truly want to tell, about the explosion of sheer pleasure that this has brought me; it brings home my ideas about the web--and has changed them, too--in ways I never imagined. But also: Further down the rabbit hole. I need to climb out and finish my other website so I can finish my book.

      Because it's not just that there are a few hundred people on a tiny server as part of a goof. There are a hundred people to introduce to one another so that they might help one another; there is a council of sysadmins to be built, resources to be found, donations to be assiduously tracked for reasons of bookkeeping and general accountability. Backups to be made, privacy to be considered. There is an instant and serious set of ethical responsibilities around money and humans that despite my deeply ingrained ironic sense of human behavior--and the fact that this is one computer I turned on and that it was, and remains a big joke--must be observed or I won't be able to respect myself. Since I can't actually handle (emotionally or technically) having this much authority over hundreds of people's (often incredibly silly!) digital presences I need to work hard to distribute that authority as quickly as possible to as many people as will be able to maturely handle it; the longer I hold on to that authority the less good it is for me or for the people "here." I've already had three fights with my wife about this server. And I mostly want to look at hilarious web pages made by people.

      That said, I know what to do next. I'm okay at the boring parts. I have a small group of people personally known to me, and smarter than me, lizard-smart, to help define what this should be. We'll establish a standup meeting and ticketing system for issues and goals. I have people waiting to help with money and admin should I need it. It will remain a folly but a well-run, organized, financially transparent folly that is eternally respectful of its users.

      I look forward to the huge banner that says We are incredibly excited to announce that no one owns tilde.club.

      I think this is what it means to live in an age of wonders. It's not all riding in the pilot's hammock of your solar-powered aircar, flitting from party to party around the world as micro-robots tend to your pedicure. For every wonder and source of joy there are human connections to maintain, people to introduce, kindnesses to suggest. It's a lot of work and I am behind on everything and need to go make some money, climb out of the rabbit hole inside the rabbit hole inside the rabbit hole. But who am I kidding--tilde.club is a fairly amusing symptom of my rabbit-hole tendencies, not even close to the root cause. This may collapse into dust or bitrot tomorrow--it almost definitely will! But—

      —who am I kidding,—

      —doing things that help people talk to each other is
      the sweetest labor.
      I am swimming
      in sugar.

      October 3, 2014

      People just keep stepping up, offering to help me and to help each other. They started donating. I brought another 200 people onto the server. It's at about 50% load.

      I'm working on a minimalist blogging platform. The idea is that you type:

      $ post

      And it brings up a text editor with the template in place, the date and so forth. Then a tiny harvester script turns that into chronlogical order.

      Of course I still need to launch my CMS and finish my book.

      I think my wife (~mo) forgave me for doing this when ~danbri got in touch with someone in our apartment building and had them slide $24 under the door. It's not entirely my weirdness.

      October 2, 2014

      As the uninentional caretaker of people having fun I feel some responsibility but instead of my typical mode of "shoulder it and sigh a lot and keep telling myself it doesn't really matter," I've decided to take this project seriously. And respect that a very new—well, too soon to call it a community, but a gathering—has appeared here, and they seem to respect each other and they want to do goofy stuff.

      I'm not going to take it personally if that community fizzles out any more than I take it personally when people go home after a party. I expect it to settle down. But there's an eagerness in the emails I've been receiving that is honestly very touching, and I feel it too. There's nostalgia here, but it's a forward-moving nostalgia. Many people want to share in this experience, help each other learn, and make silly web pages that make fun of their friends. They are learning things, meeting people, and doing work. And for now they seem to feel freed up by the old unconstrained tilde accounts. Of course most people here are just kind of driving by and checking out the scenery. I don't expect everyone to be as interested in this as I am.

      I feel an obligation—a welcome obligation—to enable it to continue, even if it means work for me. Frankly it's work I enjoy and it helps me organize my thoughts for the book I'm writing (a book about web pages). I like to tinker with systems and I have a raspberry pi in my closet. It just never occurred to me that hundreds of people feel some of the same curiosity.

      Still! I have two kids, a book due in three months, a non-tilde website to launch, etc. Plus unsteady income (by choice). I should be very clear-eyed about what I can do and what I can't. I can't give this more than a few hours a week. In the email I sent last night (included below) I asked for help, and I asked for people who needed help and who wanted help to identify themselves so that I can help them find each other. And I asked for sysadmin support. All of that is forthcoming; people will be glad to help and my experience of the web has shown me that, yes, they really will. It should be possible to shore up tilde.club and if people want to scale it they can, by adding their own servers. I guess my "job" should be to introduce people who can help to each other, and to people who need help. And to do the same myself. I'll just continue to ask for help until this either goes away or grows away.

      While I feel a responsibility of a host (literally) all I did was flip a switch. That is not false pseudo-founder modesty. Literally all I did is flip a switch and write a few shell scripts. Other people made APIs, started journals, and so forth. The community will take care of itself; if I did absolutely nothing tilde.club could work indefinitely. So I'll just trust that to continue.

      Here is the email I sent to tilde.club last night.

      So! Many hundreds of you are playing around on a unix server less powerful than a smartphone and making things like this and this. It is ridiculous and also pretty great and positive, and I'm going to do the best I can to help people get what they want out of this experience. Here are some answers to questions I've been asked:

      1. If you never got an email with your account info and password you can send me an email to ford@ftrain.com. If you make the subject "Need password" that would help. I don't mind. Give me a day or two to reply.
      2. Your friends can put their handles and names on a waitlist at http://goo.gl/forms/gRMRT1YBU4
      3. Some users want to learn more about Unix and the web. Some want to teach. Here is a form to use so that we can help these people find each other: http://goo.gl/forms/LT2bDgtmwH Please fill it out if you have knowledge to share or want to learn.
      4. There's no plan, no guarantees. The only goal is for tilde.club to be a place where you can make weird web pages that you might not want to put anywhere else.
      5. I don't expect to profit from this nor do I think I own it. However, I'd welcome help. It's turning out to be a lot for one person to do on the side. People are reaching out to see if they can help with sysadmin tasks, offering money, and talking about different ways tilde.club could keep going or grow—maybe to other servers as a kind of fun secret nerdy Internet. If you want to help, send me an email (ford@ftrain.com) and tell me what you like to do. We can figure out the details later. I don't need money right now. So far tilde.club has cost me about $11.00. If you REALLY want to give money right now I guess I shouldn't stop you—just PayPal ford@ftrain.com. I'll just put it right back into server costs.
      6. I started a github repo where we can put interesting scripts and hacks. The idea there is that maybe other people want to set up their own clubs--maybe even for short-term projects--and this could make that easier. Or if we get hacked this will make it easier to bring a new server back up. It's at: https://github.com/ftrain/tilde.club

      Please don't hack the gibson,


      (send me mail on the tilde.club box at ford I love mail in my terminal)

      October 1, 2014

      I have been spending a little too much time on tilde.club. I've received some gracious offers of sysadmin help which I will follow up upon.

      Once again I find that I have taken a joke too far. This is kind of a life pattern. I think it's the people that do it to me: I've got a couple hundred interested parties now and they are doing work and actively building a community in the absolute most straightforward way possible. I want to respect that but it must also not overtake my life. Websites and people have a way of overtaking your life, unless you are smart.

      Money is part of it. Just general anxiety. The mail server isn't working! Suddenly there are dozens of people who might want to use the mail server.

      ~dancohen had an interesting point, which is that:

      Just as there is life in the most inhospitable places on earth, like the Mariana Trench, so can a social network arise on an anemic Amazon Web Services node.

      But I think this is where unix always gets you. It's these ugly terminals and little commands and they are still what holds the Internet together in a very real way. So while they may be cheap and commoditized, they remain very powerful. It is anemic compared to a large social network, but incredibly rich when you think about the tools involved.

      September 30, 2014

      i like that people are drawing conclusions from this server and exploring and enjoying themselves. it really is exactly what we had in 1995. there is no programming, no nothing, just a server. to set it up i uncommented some lines in a configuration file and added about five different programs.

      i thought about ten people would want accounts. i decided to let a few hundred in even though the odds of the server getting hacked or messed up approach 100%. i'll just back up the web directories and when everything is destroyed by some angry person i'll restore them or archive them. no guarantees.

      i think what spoke to me all day was how people have a desire to make little pocket worlds and how great unix servers were for that. that was an experience of the early web, these little spaces meeting up. unix servers were designed as multi-purpose industrial machines for doing things.

      also if you let people just kind of run wild they'll basically make a super bare-bones social network for the hell of it.

      in any case it was a sweet day.

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