Starting in 2005 and a bit into 2007 I was very active on a social networking site called Consumating. I'm still convinced that it was head and shoulders the best design, the best community of users, and the best dynamic between users and owners of any social site in existence. By far.
First there were the geeks, and from the geeks was born the prank.
But lo, the prank did generate the mana called traffic and that even more seductive power, coolness.
So, yea, the geeks did work and bitch and much caffeine was consumed and much disputing was done, and from the form and bones of the prank was born the site, and it was good.
But, even so, the site was imperfect, being imbued with too much of that dangerous ingredient, snark. So, as time did pass, the site was drained of some of its snark, which, sadly, brought the mundanes. But lo, from the mundanes came even more traffic and even more were the founders uncertain of their right path. Coding was done and much arguing by the bageled one, and from the users of the site came both pleasure and frustration.
And through it all the site did build.
And then came the time of the coming of the emissaries of vast empires, and over the site did fall the shadow of many empires of the web and, indeed, uncertain did the future appear.
And from the shadows came substance as the site joined the empire known as CNet and much was the rejoicing and yet even so of gnashing of teeth as the people did wonder, even unto the seventh business analyst and graduate student, would the site best be seen as a primitive of the tag cloud species or a renegade of the social network species or, as it presented itself, a simple place of meeting.
And even so, changes would occur. It was found that the people pushed down most excessive fierce with their thumbs, so the use of their thumbs was rendered slower if used in bitterness.
And one night the site did shake and falter and at first the people did cry, "lo, the code, yet again we are punished and our interfaces riven by the flaws in the code", but no, it was a new site, similar to the old, but in some ways a considerably more subtle creature, dressed in the rainments of old but with new skills, skills of toys, toys which, to they whose sight was keen, were not the mere baubles they appeared, but tokens of considerable power.
And many were delighted with the toys, for even as baubles they had use and the scant times that their deeper powers, powers to change a place or seemingly, power to represent the ever-important points, indeed, flashes of mighty possibilities did occur.
And even as it was with the toys, so was it with images, as first one simple image was all the face of a citizen of the place, and then several, and then many. And even yet, the people could use first just pictures and then even pictures with motion and sound as parts of their home grounds.
But even as these things gave the people new voices, even so, were also added voices of what many heard as a sour note, voices of crass trade in their place of communion. And, worst of all, it did seem at some times, hard to distinguish the voices of the rulers from those of alien and mercantile bent, voices seeking to insinuate themselves into this haven, once an agora only of ideas.
And so it became. The rulers of the site, still striding through the domain of their creation but now vassals of a greater power, had brought in the merchants. Discussions took on a strange dual face of many puerile talks of PEEEN! and much sententious talk of "Great Issues" familiar to most only from bleary-eyed college nights. Tokens of unknown possibility brought pleasure and spread far and wide, creating habits of unknown consequence.
Tens of thousands joined, but only a small fraction were present while an unknown number visit, having never done more than anonymously lurk. Some have met here and passed into matrimony together. More have met here and passed only into acrimony together. But most were tentative but content, and did not look likely to change much for now.
But, indeed, the shadows of doom in the screen of dread yellow, which came ever more and drove away the users. For the masters of CNet had decided that the site was like unto an orchard whose fruit was unfamiliar and passing strange, naught more than an expense and an embarrassment, filling not the CNet purse and yet needing irrigation and gardeners. So Cnet did say, "we take back our gardeners. We cut off the waters. Many are our orchards, what need have we of one so strange to us? So, unlike our other lands?
And then did the site begin to wilt, to suffer. And the users did wander off, even though, now and again, more wanderers would discover this still special place. Wanderers who found the fruit of the place sweet and the other orchard denizens welcoming.
Protests were made unto CNet and yet none found solace in the cold, dismissive scraps they got in return. Plans were made to found new orchards, orchards that would follow the plan of the other but better, on safe ground in loving hands.
But as the last days approached the orchard dwellers dispersed, some to the the new orchards of the designs meant to evoke their old home. Some to the vast nations of Facebook or MySpace.
But most just left. many, like your scribe, after some small time in the new places, time found to be unsatisfying, for where the old lands gave rise to fecund feasts, the new lands overflowed only with many cartloads of grasses and roots.
Someday perhaps a new gathering will occur. And great and wondrous this would be.
But such is not the way of our world and our times.