I started blogging at el-oso.net in December 2003. I didn’t expect it to last long; mostly I wanted to keep a travel diary for a road trip around Mexico, and I figured, why not keep it on the Internet? Several months later I realized that I still had more to say. I kept writing.
I figured that my friends and family might read what I wrote, but mostly they didn’t. What I didn’t expect is that so many others —random folk from unexpected corners — would pay any attention to my ill-formed observations and reflections. But, indeed, first dozens, then hundreds, and then thousands of people would regularly check in to see what I had to say. Even more surprising, I found that I always had something to say. And not just me, a whole community of intellectual and creative exchange was seemingly behind every click of the mouse. No intermediaries, little advertising, just a lot of DIY intellectual curiosity.
I became evangelical. This was the future, I was certain. Like a Jehovah’s Witness with an endless supply of The Watchtower, I told anyone who would listen that they should start a blog. Surely everyone has something to say. “It only takes five minutes,” I’d explain, and happily offer to install WordPress on my server and buy them their own custom domain (this was before wordpress.com). I did this for my favorite cafes, friends, the occasional hostel, my enemies. Anything I could do to convince more people to blog was my little way to make this world a better place.
Soon I was hosting around 50 websites on my server, all of which cost me less than $20 per month. That this would ever become a problem did not occur to me.
Desaparecido from Google
Sometime toward the end of 2010 I disappeared from Google. Over time there were endless ways for hackers to break into the 50 sites on my server and once one was made vulnerable, so were they all. My individual printing press, my virtual library of DIY intellectual curiosity, became a receptacle for links to viagra and celebrity sex tapes.
Google, protecting the perpetuation of such unwelcome cheating, gave me the boot. I was unfindable unless you already knew where to find me. But I didn’t really mind. By 2010 the Internet felt like an awfully big place and I was content in my little online village. I became less entranced by influence and more interested in authenticity. I was ok with less interaction if it afforded me more meaningful exchange.
Desaparecido from the Internet
I knew the hackers would never leave me in peace, but I didn’t think they’d ever take me out completely. After all, it was in their own interest that my websites remain standing, parading their links to sex and drugs and more sex.
Symbiosis doesn’t always go as planned, however, and a few weeks ago my entire server — all 50 websites with it — came crashing down.
Good riddance, I thought. The bad guys won, the good guys lost, white flag in the air. What felt so revolutionary in 2003 now felt co-opted in the worst ways possible. Those friends who back in 2004 would crack jokes at my compulsion to share my thoughts with the wider world now post 20 – 30 updates on Facebook per week, occasionally per day.
I had a vision of what online participation would look like. I was wrong.
The Existentialist’s Internet
I shall complain no more. This post is not meant to mark the end of an era, but rather the beginning of another. Of the nearly 1,400 posts on this blog, one of my favorites is “The Artisan Internet and Digital Craftsmanship.”
There is good work to be done and plenty of time to do it well. The ecstasy of influence has gone numb, but the craftsmanship of good writing, the desire to write well for its own sake, is still alive. Slowly I will craft this new website into something beautiful, and I will enjoy.