This mysterious and exciting new frontier
Thanks for the thoughts and suggestions about the new site. We greatly appreciate it. Thanks as well for sharing Uncommon with friends and neighbors. It's been fun meeting new folks. This week, Lisa writes about going away, and coming back.
At some point last week, a collection of three objects accumulated on my desk: straw hat, giant bottle of sunscreen, Kindle. They were the three things I knew I didn’t want to forget when Sunday rolled around and it was time to pack the car, so I put them next to my laptop where I couldn’t possibly miss them.
If all goes according to plan, I will be planted firmly in the sand, facing a panorama of waves along the Atlantic coast by the time this letter reaches your inbox. I will have remembered to pack those three necessities, along with a stash of cooking essentials and a towel or two. What’s more important, though, I think, is what we’re leaving behind.
The two laptops are staying, first of all, as are the many tomes my husband’s been acquiring in order to prepare for his exams. We’ll say an official farewell to the last dregs of a long winter and a bustling but dreary spring, making plenty of room to welcome the first bright hints of summer. I’m leaving you behind too, I suppose, as an angel of quiet disconnect will be standing guard over my inbox. Don’t worry, though, it won’t be for long, and I’ll be a much better pen pal after having been away.
Perhaps it’s funny that I haven’t yet left for vacation and am already looking forward to coming back—with sand in our shoes and something lighter and fuller in our hearts. It’s not the going that I love so much about going away. It’s the returning to familiar places and finding oneself a little changed. — Lisa
Last week's dispatch asked, What was the first website you loved?
At the turn of the millennium I was a 12-year-old discovering this strange, wonderful thing called the Internet on Netscape 4.5, ISDN, and a Pentium II. More than anything I wanted to find new stuff! I used AltaVista, Lycos, and AskJeeves, but disliked them all. One day my dad mentioned that his coworkers were using this weird new site called Google (as seen in 2000 via the Wayback Machine). From my very first search I clearly recall it blowing my mind. Google did one vitally important thing magically well, and I loved it for that.
What a great prompt, given the environment and population it's being given. It made me think about how the use of the Internet has evolved and changed in my life. I would still class myself as more of a utilitarian web user. The first website I was crazy into was either Xanga or Homestar Runner. I think of Xanga as predecessor of Facebook in terms of having friends being able to view aspects of your life through "blogging". Ultimately, I gave that up for what has now become a tangible collection of journals. Homestar was the first web page that I can recall visiting often and it being like one of those things that creates a micro culture of people. There was something unexpectedly nonsensical about it that brought humor to me and my closest friends. It's a pretty great memory, actually.
It wasn't a website; it was Gowalla.
I think I have two answers. When I found the View Page Source function in my browser on yahoo.com at age 12, it became my favorite website to pull apart and try to understand. I recreated my own web pages with bits of their code, tweaked and customized until I understood the technical underpinnings of web development. Learning that was a rush for me: something entirely new and self-directed where I could learn at my own pace and push myself to create something out of nothing.<br><br>My other first favorite was probably an internet forum that hosted a community of new friends who talked about anything under the sun. I became deeply involved in the community and came to value greatly the people and conversations that we shared. It was an improbable group spread all over the world, but we bonded through our thoughts and desires, shared and curated in a community built from within.
The first website that really impressed me was the early incarnation of hell.com. I even paid something for access that I never really figured out. The pioneering and creative use of flash and the ability to follow the cursor around just blew my mind. I'll never forget it. The wikipedia page describes the experience well. Thinking about hell.com reminded me how the web felt like this mysterious and exciting new frontier in the early 90s.
For me, it was rec.music.gdead, a Usenet group dedicated to the Grateful Dead. It was my first experience with an online community and it was amazing.
"What we need are ways of strengthening the muscle that lets you maintain control of your own attention, so that you can more frequently win the psychological arm-wrestle against the services and sites that are itching to control it for you." Conscious computing: how to take control of your life online by Oliver Burkeman.
Do you have a favorite memory of an impromptu trip?