The beginning of a new series where readers thoroughly interview themselves.
Some time ago, I had a reader send me a very curious e-mail. It was an interview that they had conducted. In fact, they had interviewed themself!
At first, this was very puzzling. But, on some reflection, I realized what a gift this was! I don’t like my part of the interview very well anyway. This is the answer!
Also I can’t stress to you enough - THIS IS NOT FICTIONAL OR SOME KIND OF HOAX. This is actually an e-mail I received of someone interviewing themselves. Feel free to contribute your own if you want to. I am beyond serious. I’m in some kind of state of eigenseriousness that goes by the street name of CAVE. AGED. CHEDDAR.
> Herb Quine enters the digichat.
Herb Quine: You are invited to a house boat party at Ted Nelson’s place. What do you bring?
Herb Quine: A dozen balloons and a first edition of “Lagos During The 80s - The Birth Of Competitive Knitting In An Era Of Overinsurance” by Lula Drury. Also, a pet hamster in case Werner Herzog shows up.
Herb Quine: Speaking of Werner Herzog, name at least one film missing in his filmography and how to fix this grave mistake with the help of a voucher for 53 free time machines minutes to be used for a single travel to a time before October 1995.
Herb Quine: Easy, the film in question would be the missing biopic of Mike Tyson focusing on his time as a scholar of Medieval Media Studies in the field of Carolingian Reality TV, played by Bruno Schleinstein and filmed entirely in Yiddish. How to use the time machine should be obvious enough.
Herb Quine: More seriously now, why a pet hamster?
Herb Quine: Pet hamsters are the closest thing to miniature grizzly bears, a fact which is of course entirely unrelated to their remarkable characteristics as party animals (the hamsters, not the bears, though they might qualify, too…). The purpose of the hamster at Ted’s party is thus twofold: In the unlikely event that a discussion of Xanadu’s future turns into an attempt to establish the Seasteading Republic Of Hypertext, someone needs to keep the engines chugging along. And secondly, you need a fluent German speaker to reminisce about Wagner with Werner (coincidentally also the title of the longest running radio show in Nigeria’s Yiddish enclave).
Herb Quine: You walk down to the shore to buy a new edition of “Learning Perl”, as you do every Thursday. But when you reach the ice cube factory, you suddenly realize that Unicode is pointless. Sure, you can play quite a few nice little language games with all these emojis they keep adding, but the burrow only goes so far. And then you hit the parking lot of the Consortium’s reserved committee parking spaces and tumble head first onto the seat of a convertible. Which makes sense, I guess, until you realize that the wonderful weather of the bay area is no bueno for rhizomes and others of their ilk. They need constant watering, don’t they?
Herb Quine: Sorry, was there a question?
Herb Quine: Yeah, all right, enough with the rambling. Let’s get down to business. What’s your affiliation with the FBI and are you or have you ever been an agent engaged in any work of endeavor related to printables, convertibles, mazes or any combination thereof?
Herb Quine: I can neither confirm nor deny the existence of the information sought. Also, classical logic is overrated and all these lying Cretan hipsters are not nearly as interesting as they think. If you ask me, and you just did, they are just lazy bums who came up with this lying-business as an excuse to get out of the real work of building tremendously beautiful walls like real Cretans do. These kids nowadays, let me tell you…
Herb Quine: Dat / Hypercore / Beaker sure look very interesting, but aren’t they a technical solution to a problem of the medium? One great aspect of Fraidycat is that it doesn’t care how established or indie your chosen medium is, in a way it feels as if Fraidycat is rerouting and connecting existing media to extend and create new media. It doesn’t care if you’re Kylie Jenner or Ted Nelson, it doesn’t (much) care about the underlying technology, because it changes the topology of the existing pieces while not denying that centralized sub-parts of the network still exist. Is a more foundational project like Dat / Hypercore / Beaker orthogonal to that idea?
Herb Quine: I know I’m mostly answering rhetorical questions at this point, but this is one that I’m really not sure how to answer. I do love the spirit of Dat / Hypercore / Beaker, I am just a bit suspicious of any attempts to revive the good parts of the personal web without paying attention to why it became less important as a medium (the non-app-web, that is), because I would be hesitant to point to technical reasons. To me, IPFS and SSB in particular often look like solutions that fix all the underlying tech in a very admirable way, without really changing the medium that they are producing or favoring. A decentralized Facebook will still result in a medium very much like Facebook, just at a disadvantage because the technical forces can never be fully aligned with the forces of the medium. I do think that Dat / Hypercore / Beaker are not as susceptible in this regard and I really hope that they do not end up emulating existing media too much. But really, I don’t know, what do you think?
Herb Quine: Is the treasure hunt over? What are we supposed to do now? Wait for National Treasure III? IS THIS REALLY IT? What about CGI Youngface and all the hard shell kayaks that are still lying around in undiscovered places on the globe? What about annie dark?
Herb Quine: Yeah, I don’t think I’m equipped to answer this one. But damn, it was an amazing ride so far.
In an attempt to shed some light on what is going on here, this person DOES preface the interview with a note to me which reads: “I am writing you this electronic letter to defuse the somewhat bizarre situation of having sent you an unsolicited printable maze that perhaps put you in an awkward position. After all, how are you supposed to react to such a strange and perhaps unexpected offering from a stranger on the internet? Well, since the printable maze in question has already escaped into the tubular ether, there is no going back and we might as well get to know each other a little better, what do you say?” (That other e-mail is reprinted in A Verbal History of the Infinitely Printable Maze, for completeness’ sake.) ↩︎
Fine, fine, I’ll cut in here. Can’t you lot just interview yourselves and gotdamn leave me out of it??
I feel what you saying so acutely - making a distributed web is actually a minor change on the surface - who would notice? (And I’m levels down: not a zealot - I just think it’s fun.) But I think there are cascading effects. When the app and the data and the whole thing is on Facebook’s servers, that has implications. And when the app and the data and the whole are on home computers, that has implications.
For me, Beaker DOES pay attention to the original good part: view source. It brings view source to the modern ‘ye-app-web’ relevant part you speak of. That’s all. ↩︎