Textfiles.com is apparently outdated. I’ll be closing up shop later this week.
Maybe it’s just the rough-hewn do-it-yourselfer in me, but as soon as I find a site is at *.blogspot.com, I’m automatically dropping points off the final score. There’s something about it which says “built with stock parts”, especially when the majority of the stylistic changes are a switch to black-and-white and a massive image at the top of the page. The weblog itself was started this year as a “discovery channel for hacks”, but apparently has fallen into the same trap many such weblogs do: reprinting of stories and youtube videos sandwiched in between radio silence.
Lex Talionis has a number of links from this page to his other projects (and one to textfiles.com itself, which is always appreciated). A quick visit to his Radio Soapbox Podcast page belies his project management style: start a big idea, dribble along for four weeks, and then give up. This works in some contingencies, but probably not archival document acquisition. I’ve gone ahead and archived whatever copies of his show are available, but of course he used a for-free hosting facility (fileden) which has gone ahead and merrily deleted the first few shows of his massive run of seven.
So, here’s the total text of his entry, which I am putting here because I assume he will likely delete the weblog entry from the unwanted attention or run out of bandwidth from the unstoppable kilobytes of transfer I drive his way.
“Textfiles.com has become outdated. Though it still consist of very good compiled files, none of them are updated. I would like for anyone who has information they would like to share with others about any hacks or electrical engineering, DIY projects, any ideas you have written in some .txt file, hidden inside your documents folder just being forgotten about, to share with the world. I would like to recreate what Jason Scott created. He put together the history of hacking and phreaking, and other various forms of literature. But I would like to start the history of all of that. To start a library of compiled files of information, for the future to read and not forget. But hurry, because the future is tomorrow. If you have information you would like to share with others, please send it to newworlduserinfo (at) yahoo (dot) com.”
While it’s perfectly fun to punch this kid in the face a few times, I mostly bring this up because he has a few misunderstandings in there that I occasionally encounter.
When the site was started in 1998, it was primarily “outdated” to begin with; the files in question were my own personal collection, dating from about 1983 through to 1989. A smattering of 1991-3 era files were in there as well, but the 3,000 or so files were, surely, many years in the past by computer standards. Relics, really. Artifacts. You know, not the most up-to-date things in the world. But they were never meant to be; they were meant to be saved, archived copies containing snapshots of a BBS era long past and quickly fading. The light, in fact, has basically gone out on this era, with it being a harder and harder effort to explain what the hell is being talked about.
Over time, a “newer files” section was added (uploads) and I started adding post 1995 textfiles (web). These were successful in their own right.
Somewhere around the 2nd or 3rd year, I had an ill-advised inspiration to create SCENE.TEXTFILES.COM, which would keep track of the absolute newest in textfiles. This way I could archive them, keep track of what was going on out there, and generally serve as a library function for all the “new” stuff.
Unmitigated disaster. Two problems became extant: first of all, I didn’t have the time to endlessly search and browse for “e-zines” all over the internet, and second, I didn’t get along with some of the tykes writing the e-zines. And all it takes, in a concentrated socially inbred subculture, is to not “get along” with a number of members before the drama-resistant strains stop dealing with you and all the little dodgeball-side-picking crap ends in me not getting informed of new things coming out. So, it died a long painful death. It was fun to write the scripts that generated it, though.
That people get useful information out of the site in terms of actual instructional material is tangential to the mission. I mean, sure, it’s great when someone gets some ideas on basic assembler programming or enlightened about networking protocol terms still in use. But conversely, there should be absolutely no surprise to find that a lot of files describing how phone systems “worked” or passing along nuggets of interest about hacking into “unix systems” would have less accuracy than rolling dice. It’s truly the luck of the draw on that level.
Sites like Make Magazine or Sourceforge or dozens of others of that ilk are where you get the up to date information, the immediate tracking down of verifiable facts and dismissal of unverifiable ones. I do my best to keep up with what’s out there, but textfiles.com doesn’t function as a on-the-minute news site, and never has. Trying to shove it into that role fails miserably.
That it is now to the point that it is being browsed by people who have not been alive as long as the site has been around is another recent innovation that I’m not sure I would ever expected, but mostly because I was trying to save files that I was worried were lost forever. And now they are not, and in fact are saved enough that clueless pontificators consider my site an institution, badly in need of revolution, or maybe just a version of the site starring themselves.
Outdated? Maybe. But I prefer “Classic”.
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I think the right thing to do would be to honor his request and e-mail everything “you would like to share with others” (which I assume would be everything at *.textfiles.com, and then some) to his yahoo.com e-mail address.
On a slightly more serious/philosohpical note …
There’s this weird “thing,” I’m not exactly sure how to phrase it, but here goes. You know the old phrase, “I’m taking my bat and going home”? There’s always been this thing in computer circles where, if you didn’t like what was going on, you had the ability not only to take your metaphorical bat and go home, but start your own (again, metaphorical) baseball game as well. Don’t like the SysOp of a local popular BBS? Start your own board! Get rejected by your favorite ansi/ascii/lit group? Start your own group!
But back to this weird “thing” … now so, even more than ever (or at least it seems that way), there’s this fear of rejection that leads kids to start their own “whatever” without even trying to join an established group. Hey, IGN.com won’t publish my reviews so I’ll just start my OWN review site! Wikipedia won’t publish any of my submissions so I’ll just start my OWN online encyclopedia. Textfiles.com is a neat site but it’s not organized the way I like so I’ll just start my OWN massive online digital archive!
Two associated thoughts. The first is, there seems to be a direct coorelation between the number of people doing this and the ease of which it is to do so. In other words, going back to those kids who “took their bats and went home,” most of them didn’t start their own baseball game later that day because, frankly, it was difficult to get 18 people together and organize a game. However, in a day and age where within just a few minutes I can go register whatever.blogspot.com and propose some massive undertaking without having to do any real work … well hey, that seems pretty simple! I guess I’ll do that!
A second related thought is, why do these ideas rarely succeed? I suppose it’s because they get lost in the massive WWW sea. Who wants to check out a second-rate Google when we already have a first-rate Google? What was it they used to say, “if you’re going to be the man you’ve got to BEAT the man!” Something like that; point is, if you’re not going to do something better than the original, why are you doing it at all?
Wow, nothing like pissing on a million kids’ dreams during my afternoon break!
Okay. It’s not that I misunderstood what you where saying, but I simply typed what I was trying to say wrongly. I would like to go ahead and get this out of the way though. The podcast was purely experimental. I’m a person who likes to taste everything. I knew that podcasting wasn’t going to become my life. I knew that it would eventually fall, and if I wanted to continue it, I would. I would like to keep New World going, that is why I’ve kept it updated for almost two months.
Another thing, I didn’t know you were the type of person to discriminate against a website because of the way it looks. Yes, it was built off of another theme, but I’m not making the blog to show off the pretty colors and advertisements. I created it to get the thoughts and feelings of myself out. Are you racist? Of course if you are, I understand now. I did not mean to offend you in any way. Nor did I want you to shut down your site. If I were to get information files out, they were to be archived in an FTP server hosted by myself on a T2 line. I choose to use blogspot because of the simplicity of it. Again, I’m not out to show off the way my site looks, that is the last thing I’m worried about.
I understand what you have done with Textfiles, and yes “outdated” is the wrong word. “Classic” is more suitable, but not the word I’m looking for. What I was simply trying to do was start “another” archive of files. So I am truly sorry for the misunderstandings.
And to finish this up with “Flack” here, “Something like that; point is, if you’re not going to do something better than the original, why are you doing it at all?” I’m not trying to “copy” something, but start my own, the point is to try. Test the water and see what you like. Also, I have no problem with the way this site is organized. I actually prefer it.
Nick, what is most amusing about you is how a meal of peas and carrots subject to a toddler’s angry whims still ends up more structured and clarified than what you say. I realize that, as life is nothing but not full of irony, I will find myself riding or otherwise depending on some piece of equipment you’ve designed or played a part in creating, which will then proceed to kill me.
But until that time, please hold off on random accusations of racism, ignorance of the fact that a website’s appearance does in fact reflect the commitment and efforts of its owner, or trying to infer who I am or what my motivations are.
You implied several unpleasant things about my website and its position, and I used that as a jumping off point to discuss the actual reasons behind the textfiles.com family of sites and my thinking behind my decisions. Now, I am calling you out, and that’s just the way it is.
Please keep on going for the big ring, bolstered by your most recent project of 12 small essays produced in 90 days.
And to finish this up with “Flack” here, “Something like that; point is, if you’re not going to do something better than the original, why are you doing it at all?” I’m not trying to “copy” something, but start my own, the point is to try. Test the water and see what you like.
Then, my friend, to quote the famous American proverb, “put up or shut up.” I cannot wait to see a giant archive of files put online by someone who doesn’t care about how his site looks or is organized.
I’m sorry. I cannot even bring myself to talk about this anymore on this obviously racist blog.
Wow, it’s like being on a BBS all over again. One person, apparently somewhat new and unclear on the concept, comes up with a misguided idea, and the more experienced deacons proceed to tear that person to shreds instead of helpfully guiding the new user to some understanding of why their idea might not be the best in the world.
Seriously. All of you. Catch a clue. Yes, the idea that someone’s just going to re-create, on a whim, something even approaching the depth of textfiles.com is patently ridiculous, but it seems like Lex came in with good intentions, and maybe you should, you know, explain why his idea might not work instead of just responding with flames. Of all people, I thought Jason and Rob would have learned this lesson by now from the BBS days. Guess we still haven’t gotten beyond responding to ignorance with vitriol.
I’m glad that Rob and I were able to bring back the feeling of the BBS era for you. We work very, very hard to recapture that magical time.
I’m not trying to house thousands of files. I’m not trying to become exactly what Textfiles has become. I’m not trying to live up to your standards either. I’m an independent person. You’re not going to put me down, and make me cry. I’m still going to come here to textfiles when I am bored and read over the various txt files you have collected. All I’m doing is trying to do is open up a box for people to throw any, if any, text files you don’t already have. And something you probably didn’t know is that, again if any, text files that I’d receive, and you didn’t already have, would be sent to you. I understand I will never live up to what you have created, back I’m not going to back down from something that I want to do just because a few people said some “mean” things.
This is a perfect example of what goes wrong when people start talking to each other. I must admit that my own entreaty for people to be civil was, itself, unnecessarily abrasive, and I apologize to the three of you for that. (In retrospect, it has an interesting note of irony, though; the self-appointed moderator acting like an assclown while telling others not to act like assclowns.)
All this aside, though: Lex, I understand your desire to build something and make something good, but your idea might be problematic, simply because it duplicates existing effort. There was a lengthy post that went up on this blog a while ago, about how the Internet sometimes fails to build strong communities because it’s much too easy to create a me-too sort of website, whereas back in the BBS days, it took some time and effort (not to mention the financial investment of a dedicated phone line) to make a proper BBS. This meant that if somebody was going to make something, they would need to be fairly dedicated, and they would want to do it right, or as nearly right as they could. Today, anyone can create a website in minutes for free, and that’s well and good if the website has something original to say, but given that textfiles.com has a considerable network of mirror sites housing all these t-files, making another website which has exactly the same files amounts to not much more than duplication of effort. Consolidating content by making less outlets, not more, seems like a sensible idea, so you end up with a few definitive places to get lots of good stuff, instead of a giant morass of sites which largely duplicate the same few-dozen files.
Consider the large (very large) number of video-game-information websites on the web. Most of them pale in comparison to MobyGames; when you want user-submitted reviews, screenshots, etc. for a game, you go to MobyGames, because that’s the place to do it. This allows us all to have one definitive stop for all our content, instead of having to comb through several sites for bits and pieces of the same. Now, granted, this kind of consolidation can also become a problem if MobyGames starts to suck (e.g. if it suddenly becomes a paid site instead of free) and there are no other alternatives, but going in the polar opposite direction and making endless rehashes of the same material isn’t productive either.
Nobody’s saying textfiles.com is perfect, but it’s sort of the standard repository of text files from the ’80s and ’90s, and it is highly unlikely (*highly* unlikely) that anyone will create something with the same intent that even approaches textfiles.com anytime soon in terms of sheer scope. If you have a good, new idea for a site that actually does something good which textfiles.com doesn’t do, then by all means, go for it, but unless you plan to make a business out of it, working with Jason is probably more constructive than setting up another site with identical files.
It’s really too bad that scene.textfiles.com is no longer active, as I thought it was a great concept, but part of the problem is that the Internet no longer communicates in text files; it communicates mostly in forum and blog posts. The nature of the Internet is no longer to download content to the user’s local machine; instead, it’s to have all-live content that’s constantly pulled from the network and which has no local copy. I find this annoying, and I’m sure oldskoolers like Jason and Rob probably do too, but in any case, it does mean that making a site about present-day textfiles is something of a skewed objective, as only a very limited number of people will communicate their ideas in stand-alone textfiles today.
Jason has a tendency to take criticism too personally. This is probably partly because he has an OCD, which I understand perfectly because I have one too. After the several years of effort he’s put into textfiles.com, not to mention considerable money, I can understand why he’d get irked by somebody completely missing the point of the site and saying that it’s outdated, when the point of the site really is to act as a time capsule anyway. Even so, in all the years that people have been using networks to communicate, I believe one principle has never changed: When somebody comes along who doesn’t get it, the best course is to quietly give them a clue in the hopes that they might understand, rather than to just beat them over the head with their own lack of experience (and, in many cases, articulacy).
Okay, enough of me trying to be some kind of moderator. Resume generally-scheduled flame war.
I understand fully what you are saying, and what kind of site this is. I understand the concept of the site and its meaning. And as I said at the end of my last comment, I would send any files that Jason didn’t already have, to him. Working with him. Thank you LateBit though for being reasonable, and somewhat understanding. Again, I am sorry Jason for insulting you or your site in any way. I will leave that post up though, after giving it an update, so that if anyone would like to leave a text file in my hand, I will be more then happy to send it to you for archiving. I’m sure that if a local museum suddenly found a great historical artifact, it would be sent to The Museum of National History. I did write that post with the intention of working together.
“Hosted on a T2 line”?
I suppose I’ve become callous after seeing the same thing unfold literally thousands of times over the past 25 years. They always follow the same basic pattern:
– Kid discovers “something.”
– Kid decides “something” sucks, and he could do better.
– Kid publicly points out the faults of “something.”
– Kid promises to create “something 2.0,” the bigger and better version of “something.”
…and, the usual ending:
– “Something 2.0” never materializes, Kid disappears, life goes on.
Anyhoo … I should try harder not to sound like the cranky old computer guy. The fact is, there’s a 99.99% chance that “something 2.0” will never materialize and we will never hear or see the name “Lex Talionis” again. Of course, there’s always the .01% chance that he will prove us all wrong and create something grand. I suppose only time will tell.
I just went into my calendar and set a reminder one year from now to Google for his name. I will defer judgement until then.
Guess you had the last laugh there, huh, Robert?
Must feel nice, huh?
After all these years, you seem to have been proven right…
Don’t get comfortable.
For Lex Talionis cannot die. Ok?
Lex Talionis can only bide his time.
He is a phoenix.
A phoenix who shall rise up from the very ashes in which you so mercilessly left him to suffer.
..albeit a rather slow rise, yes, but a rising indeed, you hear!
You see, I happen to know this infamous Lex Talionis on a quite personal level.
Lex Talionis (or, as he prefers to be addressed by his minions: Dr. Prince Professor Talionis our Lord and Savior) has been spending a great deal of time these last 5 years plotting numerous infallible methods of which to return and wipe his ass with your faces he said to me.
And while you have been wallowing away at your pathetic existence, typin’ your types, clickin’ your clicks. Emailin’ this, downloadin’ that, savin’ stuff to your floppies. I know how you internet people are. I know what you do all day. I am not an idiot, okay? I can see right through you.
I know that deep down inside of you is a scared little child.
A thin homeless boy with an empty bowl raised high above his head begging “Please, sir, can I have some more?”
Yeah? Well, you’re not the only orphan with a hard knock life, bub. So don’t be prancin’ around here on your big glitter horse! You fools!
Lex Talionis is the world’s greatest computer person ever! OK?! Okay, he knows so much about computers that, I swear, I think the kid may be the reincarnated spirit vessel of the same guy who discovered computers over 1,000 years ago! I really do. I don’t know his name, but I’m pretty sure it was a guy who did that.
And if you don’t recognize pure greatness when you see it, well then, frankly, sir, I am quite afraid for your life. Really, I am.
It’s people like you who make these wars happen. It is.
We got gays in the White House, Muslims in our schools, and it’s all because of people like you, do you hear me? Stop it.
Thinkin’ you’re all big shots in your big shot chairs, smokin’ your big shot marijuana pipes, listenin’ to your big shot rap musics.
I’m tired of it. God damn.
Just leave my son alone, okay? He’s had a hard enough life after his mother got abducted by them god damn aliens no one believes me about, and he’s just trying to impress some girls, okay? Can he do that? Huh? Please? Can my son just try to impress his little girlfriends so they may touch on him and make his day a little brighter? Huh? Can you do that for him, Mr. Hot Shots?
Thank you Rob. But for some reason I don’t think you guys are getting what I am saying. I’m not trying to create something “2.0”. As I said before, I want to work with, just become a “source” of files you, Jason, don’t already have.
LateBit: MobyGames will never become pay only. We are users — human beings — just like you 🙂