The Old Ways

I grew up playing around with an ancient hand me down Acorn Electron computer. Many of my friends too had inherited dusty old relics of a similar vintage. One time, I remember being utterly fascinated by a BBC Micro text-to-speech synthesiser program that the teachers demonstrated at assembly. A little later on in the early 90's, my school got a swanky new "multimedia" PC. For the first time, we could load pixelated postage stamp sized educational clips from a 4X speed CD-ROM Drive. Very high tech stuff, I'm sure you'll agree. Basically, it was a time when computers were still a novelty. They had not yet become a part of everyday life for most people.  

So I guess you could say I'm just about old enough to remember a time when computers were (more often than not) little more than fancy calculators with a graphics mode (if you were lucky). Isolated and utterly self-contained, these machines sat and waited patiently for human input. Alone they could do nothing at all. They needed to be programmed. They needed us.

But now computers are the ones using us. Increasingly complex, secretive and walled off from their users by design, computers are busy doing things most of us will never have any knowledge or understanding of. It feels as if we are no longer the ones in control. Now all the computers need from us is our data. Data to track, harvest, analyse and ultimately monetise. Be passive. Don't think, don't explore. Just consume. Let the all-knowing algorithms give you what they think you want.

Some of us have had enough.

More and more people want to return to a time when we were the ones in control. True, letting people customise their personal social networking profiles again is a very small step, but a step in the right direction. It's sad, in a way, that things are so bad now that letting users add a little more personalisation into the mix feels like a radical act.

Could SpaceHey ever take the crown from Facebook? I highly doubt it. And I don't think it should. No website should ever grow so big or so powerful. Don't get me wrong, there are still good things about the modern web, but it is nice to see the return of a more personal approach (Not that it ever truly went away. It's just that for a long time, the rise of the corporate web muscled it out of the spotlight).

So if you guys like SpaceHey, you should definitely also check out neocities. It's a web hosting service harking back to an even earlier time of scratch built personal websites. It hopes to recapture the creative spirit of those early days, before globe spanning mega corporations quickly took over and swept all that away. I've been active on there for almost two years now, and there's an ever growing community of people building awesome new websites all the time. Maybe I'll see you there? I hope so.

(I prefer neocities to SpaceHey tbh. It better fits my personality. I'm very shy and kind of asocial. So I like the message in a bottle approach to building a website and leaving it for people to discover. It's like writing a message in the sand) 

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