Tilde Life, by Dave Rutledge

I'm @_ on Twitter. I'm head of content, community & design at Mediocre & I work on meh.com. A thing I helped run before that you might have heard of is woot.com. I've been doing this awhile, as you can tell by this horrific documentation of my pre-2000 web design portfolio. If you're lost, try the ~faq

November 17, 2014 ~♣

Blogging in a state of emergency

Missouri declared a state of emergency today, ahead of what increasingly seems like a very predictable grand jury announcement.

I could be wrong, but whatever happens, if anything happens, probably won’t personally change my day-to-day life much, partly because I work from home. But also because I work on the internet and while the internet is an amazing source of news and updates about events it seems to be fairly unaffected by emergencies. Assuming I keep electricity and Comcast keeps their network up, Twitter will continue on, Facebook will barely seem to notice, and tilde.club will still be here.

I’m not sure that’s great. Maybe more would get fixed in the world if real world chaos more directly affected things like browsing the web, shopping online, chatting with friends. I’m all for movements to fight for net neutrality and stop online censorship, and I do think those are very important causes, but it does seem depressing to think that it’s far harder to get people to fight for equality and fair treatment of humans. I suppose it’s connected, and the freedom to talk about whatever you want to and not be slowed down because you’re not a major corporation leads to more freedom to fight other concerns.

Not that I really know how you can fight these real concerns online, since it seems like the biggest action taken is swapping out your avatar for a day, or possibly throwing an include onto a site you run.

On the other hand, an embarrassing press conference that might have mostly gone unnoticed in the past, with edited sound bites on TV and excerpts printed in mostly unread newspapers, while today we’re all able to immediately hear and share sounds of leadership that seems to be unclear about who is actually in charge and unwilling to accept responsibility for what results from that. Maybe someday that will lead to change in who is leading, and that will lead to change in what happens in the real world. Maybe.

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November 16, 2014 ~♣

Snow Media

It snowed more than an inch today, unexpectedly (for me). It’s funny to me that I’ve got about 8 weather apps installed, and follow quite a few people from my area on Twitter & Facebook and can still be surprised by a snow storm.

In some ways it makes me feel like I’m not overly involved in social media, you know, living my life and all, but then I realize how thoroughly up-to-date I am on memes and think I may just be focused in a very different, and not altogether useful direction. Then again I know I’ve met and become friends with people at least partially because of a meme they helped create ("keyboard cat" & “God kills a kitten” to name two), and I’m pretty sure I’ve never become friends with someone based on them telling me accurate weather updates.

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November 15, 2014 ~♣

Not Dead Yet

Well, I made it 36 days in a row posting, but seem to have fallen apart since. This whole “going out of town” thing really screws it up. Guess that’s why I usually found a friend or two to also post in the past. We’ll have to see if I can get back into a daily groove or if this becomes more occasional

I seem to not be alone in slowing down around here, judging by the shrinking list on the “recently changed” page. We’re down to nine as I write this. I do see, though, that 24 of the blogs on my blogroll have updated in November, which is impressively strong. And I’m seeing a few new names pop up, like ~gruber (who I suppose could be either writer John or economist Jon or, who knows, Hans, but is most likely John).

There’s even some new tools up, like ~brennen’s recent update list, that pulls the index title in. Also, he made the same for squiggle.city, which is great. He has the code on his page, and I’d love it if this became the home page for all the tilde.club-ish places, and then someone (uh, I suppose I’d try) threw together a version that merged them all.

Speaking of all the tilde.club-sh places, this list by ~pfhawkins got some nice descriptions, in addition to continuing to expand.

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November 11, 2014 ~♣

Chatting With Giants

You know what’s amazing about living now? While this whole internet thing has drastically changed our lives, and is starting to really exist in everything, everywhere, it’s new enough that the people who put it together are still around.

t’s like if you could chat with Gutenberg about his printing press or Ben Franklin about the lightning rod.

And that’s just it. For most of these people, you can actually send an email, or sometimes a tweet, or even stumble into them at a conference and say, so where’d the idea for email come from? How’d you come up with the best method for DNS? What would you do differently if you could start over?

It may be a pain in the ass to get questions like that every day, but you wouldn’t know it from how thoroughly people will respond. You wonder if Gutenberg would be so nice.

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November 6, 2014 ~♣

A manageable crowd.

I’m glad to see some of the blogs continuing on regularly here, (~mathowie, ~cortex, ~pb, ~silver, ~schussat), and some people stopping back in to catch up (~kari, ~megnut). It’s definitely dwindled down, but in some ways that just makes it even easier to keep up with every single update, and that feels comfortable. Sometimes the best party is after the bulk of the guests leave and there's just a few of you left getting to know each other.

Tomorrow I’m going to hang out with (yet another) community I’ve been apart of for several years now. I’ve made good friends there and really enjoy seeing everyone, but it also triggers the largest case of imposter syndrome I get.

Some of the people there created some of these tools we use here, or even some of the predecessors to these tools. Meanwhile, I helped create new ways to sell stupid crap online and make jokes about it.

The interesting thing about the giants in the tech world is that, aside from a half-dozen or so superstars, the rest are incredibly unknown. I mean, they have wikipedia pages, and there are books and documentaries about them, but for the most part you’re partway through a conversation and then suddenly realizing, oh, this guy created SMTP. Or realizing the guy you’re talking to about wikis invented wikis. So then where do you take the conversation from there?

But nicely, almost every single person who’s done some amazing thing is able to sound legitimately interested in whatever silly project you’re working on, or talking to you about parenthood or home ownership or whatever other segment of life you still manage to have in common.

Ironically, even though it’s a tech type conference with a ton of insanely techie people, I won’t have my laptop, so it may be the first place I’m unable to ssh in here and add new posts. I may stumble through it on my phone if it seems reasonable, or this may be time for a little blog break.

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November 5, 2014 ~♣

Traffic Report

A couple of tilde.club folks got stuff passed around the web quite a bit today.

First, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, but once again it turns out that pictures of naked people is what drives traffic, and tilde.club is no exception. ~mathowie got emailed a photo of himselfa> just out of the shower, taken by the wired / cloud-connected security cameras in his house. I’ve been really tempted to set these things up, but I’m pretty sure they’ll only be pointed outside the house now.

Next, ~ford put a great essay up on Medium about the loss of an old friend, and machine emulation, and managed to make those incredibly disparate topics feel completely united in meaning. I mention it here, because it was really interesting to catch the aspects of the post that were talked about in his journal entry from a few weeks ago. I’ve always loved when a writer shows different iterations of drafts, and you can see some of the evolution of his thinking and writing, and this feels a little like that, even if it’s not explicitly there for that purpose. As he also said, “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.”

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November 4, 2014 ~♣

Only one vote.

I voted today. First time using the touch screen. It seemed to go well, but I cringed at every interface, where clearly someone on some committee raised a hand and said “but isn’t this other part important, too? Shouldn’t we make it bold/underlined/italics/yellow/flashing/all-caps?”

Sometimes it’s nice to be the only designer at a place. Even if what you end up designing is still not that usable, and you come to cringe at your choices, you know it was just you.

The orange and blue here were originally picked (15+ years ago) by fiddling around with hex codes. #FF8000. All, half, none. Orange. #0080FF. None, half, all. Blue. For a little while I tried out #FF0080, but it was just a little too pink for me at the time. There are certainly better colors out there, but I don’t think I’m going to gather the committee any time soon.

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November 3, 2014 ~♣

On staying young.

My kid’s started to get to the age where I can buy things that are vaguely, sort of for him, but really are secretly for me. I’ve long realized that my gift wish lists are basically the same as an 8-year-old - globe of the moon, Rubik’s Cube variants, Lego sets, beginner electronics kits - but I recently figured out that there’s even some of this toddler stuff that I like to play with at least as much as he does. I’m not sure what that says about me.

But really, if you can justify it at all, get Professor Astro Cat's Frontiers of Space. It’s awesome.

I’d like to play around with the script now, and see if I can get it to do different things with very slight alterations. I realized, though, that I don’t know how you actually run the script, much less set up a chron job so it runs regularly. Some digging is in order.

I copied the social.sh script and the ack2list.pl perl program over to my directory. Once again, I have no idea if this is terrible netiquette, but I’m hoping it’s ok. I run social.sh, which does nothing. So I run sh social.sh, which tells me I need to have created that social.html file already. So I go and create social.html and then I get:

Reference found where even-sized list expected at ack2list.pl line 3.

Huh. Line 3 is just where we create the %hash, so I’m guessing this is saying that for some reason, I’m not getting the same number of keys and values. Ok, so this is weird, but after reading up a (very little) bit on hashes, it seemed like I needed to switch the {} to () on line 3. And that…worked. As you can see here:
(I threw in some of the css from here for, I dunno, consistency.)

So it doesn’t have that “Hash” stuff up at the top…I’m guessing that’s related to swapping the curly braces for parentheticals, but I don’t know for sure. And there's a few busted links caused by people like ~almaren who have subdirectories that start with tildes, like this one.

For fun, I swapped the keys and values and created:
It’s then a list of every page on tilde.club that links to at least one other page. It is definitely stupider than social.html but it seems…mostly right. Oddly, there’s a couple pages that don’t really seem to link anywhere but are still listed as linking to other people (like ~4mvrs index). More stuff to dig into later.

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November 2, 2014 ~♣

Teaching an Old Dog Old Tricks

~mathowie is taking a month-long class in javascript and python. I should do that, although the advice I got from others was that Ruby is probably (still) the way to go for the minimal stuff I’m wanting to play around with. I’d like to hunt around online to see if there’s some combination of “do the work when you can” for flexibility and “other people are doing the same work you are” for reviews and feedback. I’m probably needlessly biased against classroom learning, but I can’t help but think there’s better teaching online than nearby. I hope Matt posts updates about how it’s going, maybe it’ll change my mind about just finding a nearby class.

When we left off, we’d created a long list like this:

that is, a path (including a tilde-user) and filename, and a tilde-user mentioned there. We separated those (and swapped the order) and ended up with:
/~harper and /~winjer/index.html
giving us a key value pair that basically says “[key]this person was linked to by [value]this other person in this file.” This key/value list is called a hash, which I just realized is why we’re using the “h” variable name.
for my $x (sort keys %h) {
    print "<tr><td class=\"user\"><a href=\"/$x\">$x</td><td class=\"linkedby\"$
We’ve started another loop. I’ll have to dig in at some point to figure out why you sometimes would do a WHILE loop and sometimes a FOR loop. Easy to see we’re going to create a bunch of table rows, and then we’re going to spit out those keys and values we built up.

This “sort keys” business is simple, but helps to make the eventual social.html page much more interesting. Rather than the original order of the list, showing every person linked to by someone, and then every person linked to by the next someone, we’re taking that same list and sorting by the people linked to. We spit out a row, throw the linked person’s name in the first column, and then move into our second column.

Now that we’re in the second column of the table, we start another loop:

    for my $y (sort keys %{$h{$x}}) {
        my $user = $y;
        $user =~ m/(\~\w+)/;
        print "<a name=\"$user\" href=\"$user\">$1</a> ";

The $h{$x} business is basically saying, within our key/value pair list, only look at the values where the key is x. So the first loop grabs a key (x) and the second loop grabs every value (y) that has that same key. And we then sort that new subset alphabetically. (Though I do notice that uppercase letters come before lowercase in this sort.)

We set up a variable $user that matches some regex even within our key/value pair. The m apparently just means something like “multiline” or "ignore linebreaks”, and then we’ve got /(\~\w+)/, so clearing out the escaping \s and organizational characters and we’re looking for something like: ~[one word] where that word is our tilde user. And then using the $1 spits out the . So we’ve basically set this up to create an anchor that links to the specific page where another user was mentioned, but only lists/links the username.

After this, we simply close the tables and end the html file:

    print "</td></tr>\n"
print "</table>";
print qq{</body></html>};
and back to the command line, we send this whole output (i.e., an html page) to public_html/social.html resulting in: ~ford/social.html

Some future homework here:

  1. What’s causing the HASH(0x1883a68) business at the start of the social.html file?
  2. Could I remove the times where someone links to themselves?
  3. How crazy would it be to try to get this to work for people (like me) using the javascript auto-linker? (On this one, I could probably get away with ditching the first / before a ~, but I’d have to see how many errant hits I got.

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November 1, 2014 ~♣

On getting old.

I turned 40 today. I’m going to guess that I’m in good company here at tilde.club, since the tech we’re all using here moved out of widespread use about 20 years ago.

Since the internet got big, I’ve thought about old folks homes, and what they’ll be like once I get old enough to need that. It’s turning out that there’s a big movement towards helping people stay in their homes, or at least in places that seem more like homes, and I wouldn’t be surprised if that continues. But really, it doesn’t seem all that bad to be around other people your age, who lived the same type of life you did, with one requirement: awesome internet.

Well, that, and hopefully enough choices around that you can pick out a group to live with that in some ways matches up with what you did in life. There need to be match.com style questionnaires that pair you up, not with one person, but with a group of people who all have enough in common that you’ll have stuff to talk about and things to do together. Certainly I’ll want to live near other friends and family, but it seems like the group you’re with every day is so important, and even more once school and work are gone as forced hangouts.

Maybe it seems sad to people that I can envision being quite happy just being online all day, but it’s one area where having limited mobility and other physical challenges can be hugely overlooked. Plus, if I’m not alone in thinking this way, we should have huge active communities popping up once all the pre-twitter crowd starts getting into their 70s and 80s.

(And ok, I’m turning 40, not 80, so maybe this is a bit early to be thinking this much about this stuff, but it’s hard not to look forward on the big milestone ages.)

Because it’s my birthday I’m cheating again on not digging into the “real” part of that perl program:

print "<table>”;
The interesting thing to me here is that you can apparently just use double-quotes, in addition to doing that whole qq function-style quoting. I suppose it’s just a matter of how much you’re wanting to quote, and if it includes line breaks. But anyway, yes, we’re starting the table that’s going to start spitting out all the users and who they’re connected to.

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October 31, 2014 ~♣

Halloween, Culture, and print qq

Tonight is Halloween, and in St. Louis that means jokes. It means trick-or-treaters and costumes and candy, of course, but around here you’re expected to have some sort of joke to say, and some stricter houses won’t give you candy if you don’t have one.

As crazy as that is to people who aren’t from here, most people here don’t even realize it’s just a St. Louis thing. I think that’s interesting - with the internet, and fast & cheap travel you’d think things that were specific to certain areas of the country would dilute, people moving away would take them other places, people moving in wouldn’t adopt them. But somehow it holds strong, without any firm plan or directive keeping it in place. To be sure, St. Louis probably has much lower turn-over than most places in the country, and I assume that helps - there’s a core base here whose parents grew up here, and the parents of parents grew up here, and stuff gets passed down without even meaning to.

There’s so many distinct cultures on the internet too, though it seems to come from the opposite place - it’s so easy to join a community, or leave one, that you can shop around until one feels like it fits. And if it fits, you’re largely adopting the cultures they have in place. After all, why join up with a community that does things that seem weird or wrong to you? You just move on. Of course, there are also communities that are basically closed off to new users. Tilde.club somewhat of accidentally falls into that, largely from the hassle of adding users, but also from the fear of what happens to the culture when you scale up. The sincerity here, the openness about learning and failing, and the friendliness of helping each other out is definitely distinct from some other cultures and sites around. Presumably that turns off some people, leads some people to be sure this isn’t the place for them. Hopefully it keeps the people around and active who care about those sorts of things.

I’m going to cheat tonight and just look at the next particularly easy section of the perl program:

print qq{<html><head><title>Tilde.Club Connections</title>
<link rel="stylesheet" type="text/css" href="css/social.css">
<h1>Tilde.club connections</h1>
The only thing I wasn’t sure about here, the only thing that’s not almost just directly equivalent to BASIC, is the qq. But from what I can tell, it’s just saying quote all the next stuff. So we’re just writing out the start of our html doc here, before we start feeding in the $h variable we built up before.

(Aside: Once again, if you're not following along with ~fireland, you should head there now. It's getting pretty creepy, in an awesome way, maybe partly because I had to view source to really get the last few posts.)

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Date, 2014 ~♣

Blogroll Sorts and the s/ function

~JWärn (whose ä the auto-linker doesn’t seem to like), took ~delfuego’s most recent changes page and added a filter to it. So I took all my blogroll entries and put it in this easily select-all-copy box:

which I can then triple-click, paste over there and check for updates. (It remembers them, but I use enough different computers that this is still handy.

I’d missed a few that had updated since my arbitrary October 20th cut-off. We’re now up to 41 total blogs, of which 29 have updated in the last 10 days. That feels very active, even if the number of users who updated each day felt like it was dwindling.

I think I’m stalling a bit on this next phase of figuring out social.html, because perl seems scary. But I might as well dive in, even if it means I get stuck somewhere.

perl ack2list.pl 
obviously is just running that perl program. (I should apologize here, I’m certain I constantly am misusing terms like program, running, script, language, and command.) Let’s see the first part of the perl program:
#!/usr/bin/perl -w 
use strict;
my %h = {};
while () {
    my ($file, $line, $tilde) = split /:/;
    $tilde =~ s/\///;
    $file =~ s/\/home\//\/~/;
    $file =~ s/public_html\///;

I went over and looked at /usr/bin to see what all was there and, wow, there’s a lot more stuff than I expected on this little machine. Just today, a friend was filling me in on byobu (essentially a fancy version of screen [and now I just noticed that byobu is basically a Japanese word for ‘fancy version of a screen’]), and I see it’s already on this machine, so now I’m running that. But anyway, there’s perl, as well, which is obviously what the first line here is just identifying. It looks like -w turns warnings on, which I think writes errors into an error_log. And if this stuff is anything like html doctype which I know more about, use strict is saying “please go ahead and error if something’s not perfect.”

Looking around “my” seems to be how you say we’re going to use a variable, h. I think the % means the variable’s going to be an array of things, which makes sense since we have that big list of names we’re just about to feed in here. But it might instead be saying that our variables are going to have two parts. Or maybe it's saying both those things.

I learned before about 0, 1, and 2 being Standard Input, Standard Output, and Errors, and it looks like we’re about to start looping through our Standard Input (i.e. that list of names we piped in) with this whole While thing.

Chomp is an awesome function name. Chomp. Chomp. Chomp. I think it’s cutting off the line returns, presumably putting our whole list on one giant line (or at least not having a “next line” character to sort through).

So this loop takes our first line:

and splits it up by :, which I think would give us
  1. /home/winjer/public_html/index.html
  2. 18
  3. /~harper
calling #1 $file, #2 $line, and #3 $tilde. After that, we’ve got this
$tilde =~ s/\///;
bit. I remember from my earlier IRC days that when people made a typo, they’d use s/ to explain what they really meant to say. It’s cool to now understand that’s from perl, since this is telling me we’re going to swap out some things for other things. But in this case, all these slashes are kind of killing me. Let’s try to break this down. I’ve seen something like s/a/b/ s/ means switch (or swap or substitute) which leaves us: \/// Since \ is used as an escape to let us use the next character, so it would seem to mean that we’re swapping a slash for…what’s between the next two slashes: //, which would mean nothing. So this goes through the tilde name and removes slashes. In our sample line, that would cut the / in our $tilde and leave it as:
Next up
$file =~ s/\/home\//\/~/;
is going through our $file (which I think of as the path) and swapping out any place it says /home/ for /~ which takes our sample $file and turns it into:
And finally, we swap out any place it says public_html/ for nothing, leaving us with:
At this point, we then build that h variable by adding together our $file and $tilde, to get: {/~harper} {/~winjer/index.html} after which we loop around for the rest of the lines.

I hope I got that at least vaguely right. It’s still mostly making sense to me. I’ll take on the rest of the perl next time, where we’ll start building the html.

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October 29, 2014 ~♣

Toads, Frogs, and Grep

I’ve learned a good bit just bouncing around on tilde.club, but probably the most surprising thing I learned was this:

toads are just frogs. like they're just a type of frog, they're not a different animal.

Because, seriously, I felt certain I remembered multiple discussions as a kid on how to tell the difference between toads and frogs, and what the hell, toads are just a kind of frog! So yes, ~cooldan69 has a frog blog, and best of all, he keeps it pretty up-to-date and, as mentioned above, full of real facts. Plus, your cursor is a frog, which is always fun.

So tonight:

grep -v feed
grep -v anthonydpaul

As discovered before, grep searches for patterns in files or input. Where we last left off, we piped a list of all the tilde names that showed up in all the tilde home directories into here. So that’s the input we’re now searching for.

grep feed
would presumably give me all the times that feed showed up in that input. Just to check, I ran
grep index.html feed
in my public_html directory and yes, got back all the lines that had “feed” in them, like "~mathowie jumped right in and loaded up a desktop blogging program, complete with archives and an RSS feed”.

But checking grep --help, -v is invert-match. So if I run

grep -v index.html feed
I get every line of my file that doesn’t have the word feed in it. Obviously grep -v anthonydpaul does the same, but removes every line that has anthonydpaul from the piped-in list before sending it on to the perl command.

A quick look at ~anthonydpaul’s page and you can see he’s running one of those rivers, that lists out every other page that’s changed in the last 24 hours. And looking through where “feed” shows up, I see ~veatch’s massive recent changes page. I’ll guess that either those linking to other pages was causing some circular issue, or just didn’t seem like “real” links in the social sense.

So anyway, we’ve removed a few of the results, but otherwise mostly just sent on that list of ~ usernames (and the path/files where they showed up). Next time, we’re digging into perl. I managed to figure out how to use “find” and ran "find /home/ford -name ack2list.pl" to figure out where the ack2list.pl file was. I was relieved, when I nano’d it, to see it’s only 32 lines long. We’ll see if I can figure out what it’s doing with this input next time.

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October 28, 2014 ~♣

Slimy Greasy Gopher Guts

~christian doesn’t have too much up on his tilde, but he does have a gopher, uh, space over at tilde.land. I have vague memories of gopher:// but they’re mostly written over by http:// at this point. Still, I was able to find a gopher proxy (search for web2gopher) and check the space out. Spoiler Alert: it’s mostly a list of books and movies he’s read.

It’s an interesting alternate universe where the gopher protocol took over. It definitely had a better name.

On to my stumbling through some simple commands. ~droob’s post on pipe leads me to believe I’ve oversimplified pipe a bit. I thought it was just concatenating commands, but it seems like it’s specifically getting the output from one command and feeding it into the next. That makes sense, and is much more useful than just a batch running of them. Here's tonight's assignment:

ack --html "\/~\w+" /home -o 2>/dev/null

But a little tangent here before I dive in. If you run ack without any other command, it helpfully displays some help. At the end of all that, it’s got “Miscellaneous” commands, including:

ack --thppt
ack --bar
ack --cathy
I love stumbling into Unix jokes. You should run those in terminal if you haven’t. Anyway, just to see what happens, I run:
ack --html 
and get:
ack: No regular expression found
so I run:

ack --html body
and get:
11:body { font-family:sans-serif;
650:Nobody goes there anymore. It's too crowded.

So now we’re getting somewhere. Ack will find specified text in files with a given extension. I know that you use \ to escape characters that are otherwise system characters, so looking at “\/~\w+” tells me it’s looking for text that starts with /~ and then a regular expression that’s w+. When I run

ack —html “\/~\w+”
I get stuff from my index.html (this page) like: /~joeld and /~izzaboo and ~_. So w+ means “the next word” and is smart enough to count _ as a word but not stuff like /.

The next part is /home, which will run ack through every file in and under the home directory I bet, instead of just the directory I’m in (mine). I dig back through the list of extensions when you run ack and find out that -o is to "Show only the part of a line matching PATTERN." It looks like by default ack tries to give you a little context around whatever pattern it found and this cuts that out. I run this (but leaving out /home so it’s not a crazy huge search) and get a ~username on each line.

I’m a little stuck on this last bit: 2>/dev/null. I think that > means to send the output here, and that /dev/null means to throw away whatever gets sent here but I don’t know what the 2 means. When I run the whole line (again, without the /home bit), it seems to output the same thing as when I don’t include the last part. My best guess is that it’s saying to ignore or throw away some part of the output, but…I’m stumped for now.

[a little later] Ah ha! A little research tells me that input, output, and error are numbered 0, 1, and 2, and so 2>/dev/null is saying "if there's any errors, just send them to the trash."

This is feeling fairly successful so far — I can see that we’ve made a list of every time someone’s tilde.club home directory is mentioned in anyone’s html files. We presumably send that on to the next command, which I’ll dive into next time.

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October 27, 2014 ~♣

An embarrassment of niches

I’m a little embarrassed that I had just not clicked quite enough times on ~john’s page. (Thanks for the heads up, ~silver)

But not nearly as embarrassed as I am trying to parse a line of commands in front of all of you.

I grabbed this line of commands from ~ford’s directory, I believe it’s the final step in writing the rest of what he’s done to his ~ford/social.html page. (I hope this is ok netiquette, I’m a little fuzzy on what’s acceptable to look at, copy, paste, etc. from other people’s directories.) I’ll clear all this out if anyone asks me to:

ack --html "\/~\w+" /home -o 2>/dev/null|grep -v feed|grep -v anthonydpaul|perl ack2list.pl > public_html/social.html

So first, I have a vague understanding that | is pipe and is used to let you put a bunch of commands on one line and run them sequentially. I’m going to say that the above is equal to saying these things separately (and in this order):

  1. ack --html "\/~\w+" /home -o 2>/dev/null
  2. grep -v feed
  3. grep -v anthonydpaul
  4. perl ack2list.pl > public_html/social.html

So that means we’re dealing with three commands (uh, programs?): ack, grep, and perl. Let’s run each and see what they say they do.

  • ack: Search for PATTERN in each source file in the tree from the current directory on down. If any files or directories are specified, then only those files and directories are checked. Example: ack -i select
  • grep —help: Search for PATTERN in each FILE or standard input. PATTERN is, by default, a basic regular expression (BRE). Example: grep -i ‘hello world’ menu.h main.c
  • perl —help: Usage: perl [switches] [--] [programfile] [arguments]
  • perldoc perl: If you're new to Perl, you should start by running "perldoc perlintro”, which is a general intro for beginners and provides some background to help you navigate the rest of Perl's extensive documentation
  • perldoc perlintro: Perl is a general-purpose programming language originally developed for text manipulation and now used for a wide range of tasks including system administration, web development, network programming, GUI development, and more.

Whew, wasn’t sure I was going to get out of that string of each perl doc recommending I read another perl doc. But anyway, I now know what these programs are for. It does seem like ack is pretty similar to grep, possibly just helping to iterate through more files automatically. But in any case, we’re looking through files in the directories around here and then running a program that will write some text to that social file. I’m going to call this enough discovery for tonight, I’ll start digging into the switches and commands of that ack line next.

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October 26, 2014 ~♣

Updating Mysteries

I love these pages that update all the time, and yet I still really can’t quite figure out what’s going on.

~john had something much like this page up weeks ago, but keeps tweaking it. The random not-tilde that pop up are now emoji, instead of unicode characters. I’d love to find out I’m missing a hidden code, a deeper message within. That, or that at some point I’ll click and it will be a tilde, and I’ll know ~john is finally home.

Similarly, I’m always seeing ~babbuh update, but never quite sure what that drip of water is all about, or these items at the bottom that would seem to be links but aren’t. It’s all very intriguing.

It’s funny, it just occurred to me tonight that I can just jump around into people’s home directories and most everyone has their scripts around for perusing. It’s at least giving me some good google-able starting points for figuring out what does what. Lesson one: ack. (I’m happy to see ~minks seems to be about where I am on some of this stuff, though maybe ahead of me on javascript.)

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October 25, 2014 ~♣

A lull.

Things seem to be slowing up a bit here, at least by looking at the recent changed page list. I’ve noticed Wall is pretty quiet most of the time as well. It could be that people are moving on, though in some ways this feels like the natural lull in a conversation - all the initial thoughts and ideas burst out, and then both sides settle into thought for a little bit before the next topic comes up. I suppose we’ll see.

I’m still thinking about creating this page that lists tilde html pages that aren’t otherwise linked, but to be honest, I’ve got zero knowledge on how to start. I’m asking a few people if I can get a copy of scripts they’ve written, to at least have the vaguest idea how it could work. We’ll see if that goes anywhere. (I’m kind of terrified of doing something that crashes the server or is otherwise considered a huge jerk move, but I suppose I just keep trying until that happens.)

As an aside, if you’re not following ~fireland’s uh, I’m not even sure what to call it, comment log?, you need to start. Also, ~echovideo’s latest update is fun, and I’m really intrigued but still fairly confused by ~javier’s uh, boy it’s hard to come up with names for these things but you should read them.

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October 24, 2014 ~♣

On the other hand

While it was fairly inevitable I was going to start some sort of blog thing here, it’s by no means the only, or especially, the best thing for people to be doing here.

I love all the playing with data around here, like ~annika’s awesome usage graphs and ~whitneymcn’s login stats, the scripts people have hacked together, like ~admoman’s atom feed, the twitter bots like @tilde_fortune and @tildeclub, and the essential recent changes page.

Even several people’s blogs are really experiments in building their own CMS from scratch, digging into how it all works and coming up with new ways to show the blog posts.

Tilde.Club is certainly about discovering what was around before, and learning what’s still powerful and useful today. It’s a terrific playground to dig in and, with very little risk, try out stuff that had seemed intimidating or bewildering, while having other people nearby to show what you’re working on and ask questions about how to do something.

~ford has some good thoughts on starting points like "go find every programming language on this system and learn about each one of them.”

I fell back into blogging because it’s what I’ve always done, because I’m comfortable with it, and because it makes me happy. But there’s room for that and to get into stuff that’s uncomfortable here, to get into stuff that I never quite understood in the past. I think I’ll start doing a little digging, and see what kind of disaster shows up.

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October 23, 2014 ~♣

Why Do We Blog?

I'm playing around with how to best respond and talk to others about blog posts around tilde. We've got a newsgroup for it now, which is awesome for back and forth and quick comments, but I'm like what ~droob says, too: "Maybe the best approach is to reply when you read something interesting, rather than nodding at your desk, and to fold others' thoughts into your own when you research, rather than hitting delete?" And so:

~sippey noticed that when presented with a blank slate here, he immediately started a blog. “why is that?”

Obviously I can only speak for myself, but blog-ish things have always been what I’ve done, online and off. Of course, it depends how you define blogs, since we’re largely talking about the days before anyone defined blogs. GeekLife, one of the first sites I made (for myself, not the paid-for ones) was daily writing for friends and whoever wandered by about whatever else I found interesting online.

But before that, I wrote and distributed printed zines. Aside from in no way being online at all, it’s hard to think of these as much different than blogs: regular (monthly) writing for friends and whoever picked one up about whatever I found interesting. Before that, I ran a BBS, which served as a place to start topics and write messages to friends and whoever found my number on the BBS Directories. And for the last 10 years I’ve helped run daily deal sites, working to put together daily events with stories and videos for people looking to buy some crap or just get entertained.

I’ve never quite caught the developer bug, so it wasn’t likely I was going to create interactive art sites, start a store, or create new tools. What’s awesome about HTML and the web is how ridiculously little you need to know to get words out everywhere. All you need is the words.

Words and persistence. In everything I’ve done over the last 30 years, from zines to blogs to the daily deal sites, the one constant is constancy. Write every day. Publish every day. Put something new up every day. At least, that’s the goal. That’s what gets those people wandering by to keep wandering by, start sticking around, and start telling friends. What’s nice is, while it’s not all that difficult, it’s something most others aren’t up for. Keep at it long enough, steadily enough, and you stand out just from continuing to exist.

There are so many things people can, and are doing on tilde.club, but for me, it was always going to be a blog.

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October 22, 2014 ~♣

Dark Tilde

I mentioned before that ~waxpancake put up a video experiment, simultaneously playing 4 videos that each represent one track from different songs. It’s surprisingly fun, even if it almost always sounds horrific. But a few days ago, he also added a second video toy, called running or possibly just runnin', that adds screams and a soundtrack to a hilarious crowd simulation. He didn’t link to /running from his home page, only linking to it from outside tilde.club.

It made me wonder how much other stuff on tilde.club isn’t linked to from anywhere on tilde.club. I remember discussions of this in the early days of the web, the so-called Dark Web of sites and pages not linked by any other page, or at least only interlinked among some wholly separate group of pages, severed off from search engines and any other indexing sites. Is there a Dark Tilde?

~delfuego’s recently updated page doesn’t quite help here, since it only sends us to home pages that have been changed, and wouldn’t show any deeper files, but ~veatch (as well as others, presumably) has a feed of all file changes. [WARNING: This page is insanely huge, so it loads very slowly and can crash a browser, so clicker-beware - veatch feed] Presumably if you watched that for changes, you could eventually see other html pages show up that weren't otherwise linked.

Even that, though, only goes back 5 or 6 days, and it seems to largely be auto-updating pages. It’d be interesting to look through everyone’s public_html directories (which…I don’t think is too creepy, is it? I mean, they’re public) and list all the html files. Even cooler, but presumably more challenging, would be to list only files that aren’t linked to from any other tilde.club html file (uh, except for the page you created that then linked to them).

I’ll have to admit here, I’m far away from knowing how I’d do this, but given the types of scripts I've seen around here, it doesn’t seem impossible. Is it a terrible idea for other reasons? Is Dark tilde.club dark for a reason?

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October 21, 2014 ~♣


I think most people here are looking forward to when tilde.club talk is less about tilde.club and more about, you know, life and things going on. I think that’s great. I’d rather read good writing about everyone’s lives and projects and other things going on then read 100 daily blog entries about tilde.club.

But I think there’s still a place for a tilde.club blog, whether directly about the site and its users or at least about thoughts on community and technology that spin off of things seen around here. I’m enjoying living in this blog, trying to think about the whole of tilde.club being all there is to explore and keep up with, so I’ll probably just keep to it.

~jeffbonhag said it reads like a community newsletter, which is great by me. I need to be mentioning more neighbor’s birthdays, and organizing block parties, but otherwise, that seems pretty on target with the “Tilde Life” name and posts so far.

Maybe Tilde Life can become the Radio DJ from The Warriors movie, sharing updates and news that affect all the rest of the gangs out there in Tilde land. Ideally with fewer calls for murder.

[quick update to a below post - there is now a German tilde, and it's very nicely at http://germantil.de]

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October 20, 2014 ~♣

Blogroll Audit

I started up that blogroll on the left for two reasons: mostly, I want an easy way to remember to visit the sites with writing every day. But secondly, through a quirk of non-alphanumeric naming, I’m first on the tilde.club list and feel like I should give people who wander in from the home page some places to explore.

I added a line of gray text. If a blog updates after today, I’ll put it above the line. It’s my lazy way of noticing what blogs have stopped updating. I don’t mean it to be pressure for anyone, it’s just meant as a way to know what sites I should visit every day vs ones I’d check in on once a week or so.

Along those lines, if anyone who reads this has any kind of blog-like thing on here, which I’ll define as simply as I can: dated entries, with some text and/or images, email me (internally or via the “Add A Comment” link below). I’d love for that sidebar to be tilde.club complete. Also, the text I put after each entry is mostly to remind me of the differences between the blogs. Feel free to send over, say, 3 or 4 words if you’d prefer I put something else.

I previously had a second batch I was calling art-ish. I cut it, mostly in the name of keeping that list similar, and not listing literally every single tilde.club page, but here’s what I had before I commented it out:

  • ~aalaap made a simple chatroom for all

  • ~toph made a river that lets you scan over recently changes

  • ~butts has some impressively freaky tilde art

  • ~dphiffer has an awesome animated gif and marquee

  • ~jeffbonhag put up a blobby clicky thing

  • ~annika with some more tilde art

  • ~vijithassar put up a game of sorts

  • ~brownpau has more tilde art

  • ~ryan made an interactive picture of enya

  • ~zarate lets you suggest a book, and see what others have suggested

  • ~cshier is freaking me out with a tiling hypnotic animated gif

  • ~matthewmcvickar with the spinning tilde

  • ~m4rk3r set up a viewer for random tilde.club pages

  • ~tb is building a work bench

I’ll use this post now to check in on some of those and see how much they’ve changed in the last couple weeks.

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October 19, 2014 ~♣

Blogs Before Blogs

I was asking about adding a newsgroup specifically for people to have longer discussions about posts on tilde.club, but got stuck on what to call it. tilde.blogs or tilde.blog was a first guess, and what I proposed, but the vague time period of the height of tilde sites predates the word blog.

Back in 1998, a friend and I started Geek Life, subtitled Geek News, Opinion, and Culture. It evolved out of getting tired of sharing links in IRC or email and just wanting a central, saved place for us to talk about what we were finding on the internet. We ended up calling it an Everything/Nothing site, which got shortened to E/N. For a little while in 1999 and 2000 that name was catching on, and used by quite a few other sites. For awhile, Fark had an E/N tag to designate links to these types of sites.

Ultimately blog came along defining similar, if not exactly the same, type of sites, and it clearly took over. My guess was partly that E/N isn’t easy to say, and while people are far more often typing the name than saying it, it didn’t flow as much as “blog” even thinking it. (As a counterpoint, I was surprised IM for instant message never got a more pronounceable term.) I vaguely remember flame wars between the “blog” and “E/N” factions, with a lot of discussion about what various bodily functions "blogging” reminded people of.

It makes me wonder about all the terms we have, over the last thousand years or so, and what the losing terms were. I’ve always wondered if “computer” was always the definitive English term for these things we’re on. I’d have guessed that “calculator” would have been a common term for awhile, until enough additional features popped up to deserve its own name. The French term is ordinateur, which I’d guess would relate to ordinate, i.e., graphing coordinates. (Spanish seems similar, with ordenador a common term.) Is there a term for studying the selection of new words? It seems a bit more nuanced than straight etymology, as you want to see who lost the battle. The also-rans of the ongoing language elections.

In any case, it may be safer and less controversial to go with tilde.comments, or (as some have smartly suggested) just to throw everything into the .general category until it overflows and demands its own space.

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Concerning the French name "ordinateur" for computers, which you correctly cite in your ~post, it has not so much to do with ordinate as with ordering (information). The idea was to find a French name for a new electronic machine which should process information (namely an IBM 650), but to avoid a translation of computer which would have been "calculateur", since this term was reserved to scientific appliances at the time (1955).

The name "ordinateur" derives from "ordonnateur" ("s/he who puts in order"). Apparently, IBM France tried to trademark it but in the ned decided to leave it into the public domain.

Hope this may be of tangential interest to you.

Sources: http://www.presse-francophone.org/apfa/motdor/etymolog/ordinate.htm & http://listes.traduc.org/pipermail/gnomefr/2003-July/000258.html

PS: concerning "Blogs before blogs" there also used to be phlogs in gopherspace if my memory serves me correctly, isn't that so?


That's great info. I felt pretty stupid just making huge guesses based on my tiny etymological knowledge, but it's great if that gets people more knowledgable to clear it up a bit.

It is interesting to consider the psychological difference between thinking of this machine as something to compute vs something to put information in order. I wonder if the early available programs in each language may have influenced that, if it's a deeper cultural source, or if it was more random & accidental.

I also hadn't considered if these had been trademarked. That seems so ridiculous, and yet it's absurd to think it wouldn't happen if something new like it came out today. I dabbled in gopher in my early online days, but definitely not enough to remember phlogs. It's quite possible that's actually a worse word than blog.

October 18, 2014 ~♣

See you in 10 years?

Tonight I’m meeting up with members of another online community I’m a part of. I joined that one in 2003, 11 years ago, and yet I solidly consider myself one of the newer members of the group.

Any business would consider that as stagnation, and a failure, but most people in the community love that the group has stayed relatively small and consistent over that many years. And you could hardly call it a failed community - a couple dozen people flew across the country to meet up, as they have done in years past.

Will this be tilde.club in 10 years? Is it careful planning and holding steady to strict principles that builds a great community? Or is it random luck, and we’re just forgetting the equally thoughtful communities that just died out?

So far, I like how this is rolling out - we’re pretty early in and there’s people carefully considering each move and how it might affect the group. There’s also people in here that have helped to create many other communities, some successful and still around, some that have closed up shop and potentially taught some helpful lessons.

It may just be a lottery, this may all seem ridiculous in 6 months, or I may be getting on a plane in 10 years to meet with other tilde folks over drinks and dinner and talk over how the first decade of tilde.club has gone.

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October 17, 2014 ~♣

An Anatomy of a Crash

~admoman nearly crashed the server, and then wrote about it. Like, not just "sorry, I crashed the server" but a full on analysis of the error, how he fixed it, sample code, and plenty of cursing.

I love this. For one thing, it's not like ~admoman was trying to download warez, or distribute porn, he'd built a feed for people to use to keep up with all the changes on the server. Essentially a public service. But even aside from that, it's so rare these days to get the full, sincere, and public "I messed up" and even rarer to get the "here's how I messed up, so you won't mess up in the same way."

It's fitting. Or, at least, I want it to fit. I like this addition to the sincerity of the group here, full openness and transparency when something goes wrong. This is how people learn. This is why we can have nice things, because people broke them once and told everyone, and then we stopped breaking them. Or at least we stopped breaking them in that specific way and moved on to new, innovative ways to break them.

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October 16, 2014 ~♣

On the Shoulders of Giants

So now we’ve got tilde usenet groups. If I read right, ~emv set it up, and ~artem is running it, if those are the right terms. There’s a variety of sub-boards, starting to spread past just talking about tilde.club itself.

We’ve also got irc, though my quirky username so far has kept me out of that area. From what I hear, though, chat is active and thriving. I use wall, magically sending out a note to everyone online.

Of course, there’s mail. The complete lack of outside mail has really changed the feel of this, so it feels odd to even call it email. But it’s got all the power and tools that email has.

It’s amazing to me how powerful Unix, and these tools built on top of it are. You start, with this simple log in and a nearly invisible command line, and you poke around a little. And this place, for being ancient technology built on the smallest and weakest of systems, is incredibly powerful. It’s great that we’ve got knowledgable people here, willing to put in some time to get these things up and running, but what’s really remarkable is how little work it seems to be to get so much available to all of us.

Leaves fall in my yard and I’m out shopping for rakes and then leaf blowers, yard waste bags, some sort of funnel to help feed the bags, these bizarre plastic hands to help me pick up the leaves. It’s the simplest possible task, and yet there’s this mountain of work to just get started. Life is like this. But with Unix, you think of this thing you want to do and you just poke around, knowing that certainly someone else somewhere had this same thought and spent the time and effort to make, and usually just give away a tool to do exactly what you wanted.

You think, publishing this index page is nice, but it’d be cool if I could talk to some people. I’d like to talk one on one to a few, so I use mail. I’d like to get a quick response from whomever’s around, so I use wall, or irc. I’d like to get more people weighing in and document the conversation, so I use newsgroups. There’s piles more here to discover, tools I’ve never heard of, solutions to problems I haven’t yet had.

Thank you, people who built this world for us to play in, it’s really great.

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October 15, 2014 ~♣

Posting Peer Pressure

Like most here (I assume), I like to check out the last updated page to catch anything outside of my blog roll. It occurred to me today that were now about 3 weeks into this and we've still got pretty crazy levels of activity.

49 people updated pages in the last day. That's 7.7% of the 637 tilde.club members and 10.1% of all 484 who have ever updated their page. Just in this last day! (It’ll be interesting to run these same numbers in another 3 weeks or so.)

I feel like something's happening here, where people are still spinning up new blogs as it starts to seem like that's what works well here. Certainly there's plenty of art pages and quite a few static retro pages, but every day someone else is saying "so I guess I'm starting a blog."

But also, a ton of people with blogs are updating daily, or close to it. I'd been keeping a vague watch of blogs on my sidebar roll, figuring I'd drop ones off as they were abandoned, but one by one almost everyone has posted recently, and from what I can tell, it's picking up. In fact, I'm falling behind adding all the active blogs. That wasn't what I expected.

It feels like there is a peer pressure to keep updating and to keep coming up with stuff to talk about and people to link to. I love this kind of pressure. Sure, it can lead to pointless posts (guilty), but it can also get people building off each other, and it all together even more cements tilde.club as a real community - less and less just a joke or a gimmick and more a group of people talking and thinking and writing, together.

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October 14, 2014 ~♣

Online before the Web.

The nostalgia around here got me thinking about my earliest online days of BBSes.

Back in ’88 or '89, we got a 2400bps modem and, after several weeks of fiddling, managed to sign into local BBSes. By 1990 I’d started The Land of Spam (named before the days of email spam, because my phone number was 821-7726, or 821-SPAM) which I ran for 3 years. I was Nostradamus. My BBS wasn’t particularly popular or notable, except that I set all users to the 255 security level, the equivalent of root. (This matched up nicely with the full screen ANSI art anarchy sign displayed on log-in.) Somewhat surprisingly, I have no memory of this backfiring in any way.

The early days of the web seemed entirely lame in comparison to the rich communities of BBSes. I remember loading up friends’ personal ~ sites which mostly consisted of a tiny photo of them, and a list of their friends’ sites (which, in turn, had little content except links back). Inline images seemed cool enough, but it seemed really doubtful that the mere added tech of linked text would somehow create some amazing world far beyond what I had with WWIVnet.

Yesterday I searched, and quickly found active BBSes that you can telnet into with terminal. They seem to exist mostly as novelty museum pieces at this point, but it still felt good signing up for an account, scanning the message boards, and playing a round of Food Fight.

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October 13, 2014 ~♣

Seid gegrüßt.

A thousand Germans wandered in today. It's hard not to think of them as tourists, but that sets us up as a tourist trap of sorts. I suppose yet another analogy for tilde.club is a tech Colonial Williamsburg. I don't think I like that one. But anyway, welcome Germans, I look forward to seeing the first German tilde.club-ish site pop up.

I wanted to ask on the wall where the Germans came from, and I eventually did, but I was a little unsure - I think many people are using this place as a way to get away from analytics and site stats, and I didn't want to be handing out Jello shots at the AA meeting. For my part, I've avoided implementing Google Analytics, but I did drop in a ridiculously primitive page counter and an eXTReMe Tracking link. The latter because it's what I used in 1998 and I can't believe it's still around. Plus, I like that it's just totally open to anyone else who wants to click on it and see who's visiting.

I know so little about the spread of the internet outside of the US. Was there a population of Germans who experienced logging into Unix servers and editing their tilde sites? Probably. Was it at the same time, or years later? Were they also largely students at or just out of university? I don't speak enough German to ask. This is where real comments would be handy, though I suspect we won't have made regular visitors of many who don't speak English. (But please write me if you know.)

[UPDATE: there is now a German tilde, and it's very nicely at http://germantil.de]

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There was a pretty useless article (http://www.sueddeutsche.de/digital/web-idee-tildeclub-was-wir-von-einem-retro-netzwerk-lernen-koennen-1.2169502) on the website of a big German newspaper. In brief, a journalist who thought he was hip by writing about the latest American internet fashion ("hundreds of users"!) directed a bunch of Germans over who probably had not the slightest idea what on earth they were just looking at ;)


i was sending a newsfeed to fu-berlin.de in 1989, fun times.

the little bit of German I can safely say I still know was due to my reading German netnews.

I'm sure there will be a German language tilde set up sometime (and I want on it!)

gruss aus Ann Arbor,


I also noticed a spike of traffic from this other German article http://www.golem.de/news/retro-netzwerk-der-tilde-club-erstellt-webseiten-wie-in-den-neunzigern-1410-109798.html

I got in touch with some commenters, and told them about other tildes seeing the light of day - who knows? Maybe they'll be inspired to launch til.de one day!

October 12, 2014 ~♣

A List Of Lists

[update] And more!

There's tons of blogrolls (like mine), and "people I know" type lists, but that was everything I could find that was literally a list of Tilde-related things. If you have or know of another Tilde-related list, email me (either internally, or use the Add A Comment link below).

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October 11, 2014 ~♣

Nobody goes there anymore. It's too crowded.

What's the right size for a community? And what do you do if it seems like it's growing last that size? Part of the charm with tilde.club is how tiny it is, how possible it is to keep up with everyone and read everything. And yet it feels counter to the friendly, open nature of the whole experiment to lock people out. It feels important to fight elitism, but impossible to imagine keeping the same feeling here with 10,000 members.

Is the answer other .clubs? What's great is the low barrier to entry, the relative ease of spinning up a clone (with it getting easier as folks work on scripts and documentation to help). If there are enough of the people wanting in who have some basic sysadmin skills, it'd be great to see 10, 20, 100 communities out there with a thousand people each. And then there's the fun of figuring out if and how these communities could be interconnected, forming a microcosm Internet. But half of what I like about tilde is exactly who is here, the mix of friends, people I admire, people who I've long wanted to get to know, and that's something I don't know will happen with the other .clubs.

Of course, another strong possibility is that demand falls off and activity declines, shrinking the waiting list at the same time as room frees up for more people. It's far too early to know if this thing is only fun for a few months or if it has years of life.

How many organizations go through this same challenge? Every conference I go to battles with this. Limit who can get in, spin up additional groups, or try to keep to a small enough niche that you don't get popular. Maybe it's best to just take the Zen approach - expect everything to turn to crap, enjoy it while it's good and leave when it's no longer fun.

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October 10, 2014 ~♣

Re-creation Recreation

As ~mathowie mentioned, several people have likened tilde.club to War reenactments. I can see that, we’re placing technological restrictions on ourselves for fun, pretending we’re living in a time ages ago (in internet years) when modern conveniences weren’t around.

But to me, it’s more like vintage base ball. I played on the St. Louis Perfectos vintage base ball team at one time, playing other vintage teams around the region. We used the 1869 rules - no gloves, catching the ball on a bounce was still an out, and we used terms like striker for the batter, and hurler for the pitcher.

So what’s the difference between war re-enactment, and vintage baseball? Within those rules we agreed to, we played as hard as we could, and tried to win every game. As far as I know, it’s not acceptable for World War II re-enactors to have the Nazis win from time to time. Everything they’re doing is prescribed, every battle must turn out the same way, over and over again.

We’re vaguely living in the rules of the 1990s here, but nothing says we can’t try as hard as we can to come up with cooler things than people (or often, we) did then. No one’s required to stop short of using the old tech to make something that never existed. We’re not actors in a play, we’re players in a game, and that sounds like a lot more fun.

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Charles Hood

Tilde Club practically cries out for someone to resurrect the SlipKnot browser. SlipKnot was a hardcore hack… using a shell account to surf with a graphical browser… Those were the days.

October 9, 2014 ~♣

Meeting One of the Tilde.Club Users' Group

The first tilde.club meet-up was a success! I mean, in that I met ~droob and no one died or was horribly disfigured. The best thing about having a 2-person meet-up is that it's feasible to have the second meet-up grow by 50%, or possibly even 100% without much work. In any case, it was fun talking to someone about tilde.club without the need for a 30 minute explanation of what the hell tilde.club is, followed by an attempt to explain why I would be spending any time at all on such a ridiculous thing.

So, of course, we talked about what the hell tilde.club is, and why we're spending time on it.

We both spend all day working on the web, but doing that today is a very different thing from 20 years ago. You're able to do amazing stuff, insanely quickly. It's great. It's also very abstracted. Not just “I'm not typing 1s and 0s” abstracted, but layers on layers on layers (on layers) of abstraction, twiddling with dials on black boxes instead of adjusting the gears. Editing index.html files in emacs on tilde.club is clearly still massive amounts of abstraction between our html and javascript and what the server is actually doing, but relative to the rest of the way we interact with computers, it feels very direct and raw.

I'd say it feels like working on your car in your garage, except I haven't the faintest clue how to do that, or if that's even at all possible now. Still, I bet it does feel like that, fixing up that old junker, excited to get it to start up, even if it's still spewing smoke and fumes and only “works” by some definition you just made up.

It's hard to know if that'll always be fun, if it'll always be a nice diversion, even if it'll always exist, but that hardly matters. It's fun right now.

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October 8, 2014 ~♣

Comments on Comments

I don't mind that there's not fave stars here. I like that there's no "like" button. I really enjoy the lack of share icons cluttering up everyone's page. But I do miss comments. Everyone's always "don't read the comments" and I get how horrific they can be, but it's also just the easiest way to talk to people who read what you wrote.

So how do you do comments, tilde-style?

  • ~tim put up a Fargo blog, which comes with Disqus comments automatically. It seems to work great, but I'm personally hoping to not have 3rd party stuff so prominently in my tilde, so I'll probably hold off on that.

  • ~travis has a fancy widget where you can type a comment and a name, and then move it around. It's commenting, but otherwise not quite adaptable for attaching comments to articles I think.

  • ~dylan has some sort of comment entry thing, but even viewing source it's a bit of a mystery to me. I'd like to dig in more, as it's basically what I was hoping to see, just an input box that outputs sanitized html. But also, I'm pretty sure I put in a comment before that's no longer there, so maybe it's more ephemeral than I'm thinking.

  • Over on the wall, ~jeffbonhag suggested I just have people email me. He may have been joking, but at this stage it'd be easy enough to copy/paste the few comments I got into the code here that I may just try it. Ideally I'd use my tilde.club email, but I really can't get my head around how to mailto link that so people are emailing me from terminal. So in the meantime, I'll just mailto my personal account.

[update] So I did that, and lo and behold got a comment! It's hilarious how manual and not real time this is, but still, comments!

[much much later update] I'm thinking about http://www.htmlcommentbox.com but am not yet sure if it's just a simpler disqus or if it's close enough to just hosting my own comments. Ah, but "Can I have more than one comment box per page? no."

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To email from the tilde.club account via mailto:, a between some googling and testing it looks like one would have to engage in the following steps;

a) be browsing with lynx on the server in the first place
b) add a custom lynx configuration beforehand to get the mailto: working properly.

I'll plan on trying that later, no time to work on that at present.

October 7, 2014 ~♣

My Tilde Life flashed before my eyes

tilde.club went down for a little while last night and today. I don't know if why is fully known, but ~ford and his sysadmins got everything back, on a better server, and without losing any data. Until DNS synced up, you even had to use the IP address to log in, which added another layer of nostalgia to the whole mess.

What was interesting was seeing the reactions from other tilde folk. For one, absolutely no one seemed upset at all, even at the possibility that there'd be data loss. But more interestingly, I saw several people contemplate if it'd just be the end of tilde, and reminiscing a bit about how enjoyable that experience was and how they'd miss it. The server being down means most of these aren't (yet) posted around here, but ~droob got some thoughts up on the actual enjoyment of things eventually disappearing. So, certainly it wasn't brought down on purpose, but as an unintentional "you don't know what you've got till it's gone" experiment, it was successful.

(PS, if you haven't checked out ~waxpancake's tilde mash-up, you should, it's bizarre and hilarious and interesting all at once, and it's probably not what brought tilde.club down.)

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October 6, 2014 ~♣

A tilde.club meet-up

It looks like ~droob and I will have a (first ever?) tilde.club meet-up Thursday in St. Louis. Uh, any other tilde folks, join us - at the Royale on Kingshighway, noon on Thursday if you can. I'm hoping it matches up with the first BBS parties and online-community meet-ups I went to - poorly attended, awkward, and without a clear idea of who is actually who.

Bizarrely, ~droob realized we run in the same circles based on a web page I created 15 years ago with a mutual friend. I suppose any two people from the same city who were both on the internet in the 90s have a pretty good chance of knowing each other, but it's still great to have it discovered in this odd mix of the past and the present.

In any case, was it ~waxpancake that said you know a place has a real community when its users independently coordinate gatherings? I think we're about to become official.

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October 5, 2014 ~♣

What tools are "ok" to use?

~ford added a couple hundred more users, so we're up to 600-ish, many of whom got to work quickly editing their own pages. For the most part, it seems people at least start by using vi or emacs, but a few are venturing off. For my part, I decided sftp was acceptable, and use Sublime Text, but still handcode everything.

This "acceptable" idea is a bit odd, and obviously completely self-imposed. There's some feeling that we're going back to the old days, and should keep to some level of primitiveness. High-tech Amish, freezing our technology in 1994 instead of the 1800s.

~mathowie jumped right in and loaded up a desktop blogging program, complete with archives and an RSS feed, but seems to be regretting it. "Pointless nostalgia isn't proper nostalgia if you don't stick to the original tools."

Then there's what type of layout code you use. I'm sticking to table layouts, but allowing myself css to format them. I don't have a good reason for that, except tables seem like innocent fun and the font element seems horrific and evil. But there is still a pang of guilt of some sort that I'm "cheating." ~ford says he's working on a primitive blog posting unix program, which may be the right compromise for the html-challenged.

~danbri put a list of who is currently using vim, emacs, view or nano. At a glance emacs and vim look relatively tied, but obviously this can't count things like sftp uploads. (Thanks for the help finding that, ~drifter.)

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October 4, 2014 ~♣

So what's with "finger"?

I was catching my wife __ up on tilde.club goings-on, especially the more hidden logged-into-the-server stuff and offhandedly mentioned fingering someone. Which, of course, got her cracking up. Which I'm sure I did as well on first hearing the term, but it was just long enough ago I forgot how weird that is.

So I asked (on the wall) if the creator of Finger named it knowingly, chuckling at everyone just using this term nonchalantly, or if he was particularly naive/innocent about the whole meaning. ~pmg posted this retelling (via email alt.folklore.computers in 1990) from the creator, Les Earnest (whose last name basically tells you the answer):

Finger was named for the act of pointing. I recall that sometime after it became popular I received a message from a system administrator who thought that it should be renamed so that users would not have to use a "dirty" word. I gave his request all the consideration that it deserved.
So it seems he named it without thinking much about what it'd sound like to "finger" someone, but fairly quickly heard about that and decided to ignore it. Fair enough. Even still, finger seemed like a weird verb to use until I read his later anecdote:
I frequently saw people running their fingers down the WHO display saying things like "There's Don and that's Pattie but I don't know when Tom was last seen." or "Who in hell is VVK and where does line 63 go?"
Which then makes a good bit more sense - fingers on the screen. Touch screen before touchscreens.

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October 3, 2014 ~♣

Doomed to repeat the past, apparently.

I didn't really plan to start out like this, but I've ended up hobbling together some basic form of a blog-like site called Geeklife that I helped start and run in 1998. It looked a little nicer than this, even then.

Back then it felt like the internet was getting big. Big enough that we needed people to spread out to cover the whole thing. But that's just it...it felt like you could actually cover your share of the whole thing, and checking in with the others, basically keep up with the internet.

I have no idea if I can come close to keeping up with tilde.club, but I love that it's even feasible, again, compared to keeping up with just about anything else on the web these days. At longest, that blog list will be as long as the tilde.club home page, and more likely it'll be much shorter as most users abandon their pages.

I'm also enjoying writing truly awful html. Just hacking tables in with css all over the place. It's really cathartic. But I do miss comments, and I doubt I'll be able to figure that part out unless it's copy/paste from some other tilde-er.

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October 2, 2014 ~♣

My horrific pre-2000 web design portfolio:

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