ASCII by Jason Scott

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The MUD Archives: It’s About Goddamned Time —

OK, just a few days into my Archiving position at Archive.org, I think we’ve had enough time before I start initiating new projects.

In Archive.org’s realm, you can add “items”, which can be movies or books or software or what have you. You can then put those items into a “collection”, which is where you can declare all these disparate items as being related in some way. You can also put a bunch of collections into a greater, meta-collection. In other words, we have plenty of space, plenty of ways to classify, and there’s lots of items you can put in.

At this point people who know of me from the last ten years or so might not know that I was a co-founder and administrator of a MUSH, a MUD Variant, called TinyTIM. There’s still a site for it, and it’s still up, 21 years after being founded. Longevity, we has it.

While I had a storied and checkered history with MUDs, I do think it was worth the years of my life I spent doing it, and I can personally attest there’s a rich enough tapestry of artifacts, lore, events and people that it is an absolutely valid “thing”. It’s something worth writing books about.  It’s something worth making a documentary about. And it is certainly and completely critical thing to archive.

Wikipedia is quickly showing itself to have an unexpected measurement usage: it is an early-warning system for finding out what knowledge is falling out of favor and has a danger of being forgotten or lost. At one point, they started attacking the demoscene pages, anything with groups or events, and desperate attempts to keep the articles about Demoscene-related subjects revealed obvious things, like how Wikipedia Encourages Bureaucratic Assholes, but also less-obvious things, like how there was at best spotty examples of specific demoscene information in a greater social context. If you knew where to look, you could find these artifacts and stories, but since Wikipedia only wants an ever-shifting set of “legitimate” sources for the viability of a subject, a bunch of stuff was deleted.

Well, they started doing it with MUDs. And MUDs, trust me, are as real and vital a subject to our computing history as many others. MUDs were virtual spaces dealing with the wonder and misery of human nature long before these started showing up in what we currently call social media. They were mass communities that spanned the globe, led to relationships and hatreds, and influenced a generation of computer users in how they would think about these computers as tools and barriers. So, Wikipedia’s assery is history’s gain, because the fire is lit.

It’s time for a MUD archive.

Now, I will happily take on this mantle. I am your go-to guy for collecting MUD history, lore, data, stories, you name it. I want photos. Recordings. Listings. Source Code. Webgrabs. Lectures. Heck, databases and .tar files sitting in the back of your hard drives. I will help you get them on the archive, get them into the collection, ask you the questions you need to answer and do the lifting. I am here for you.

Let’s not let this die. I conducted interviews with MUD’s co-founder Richard Bartle and TinyMUD’s creator Jim Aspnes as part of GET LAMP. I will ensure these get onto the Internet Archive. I will provide any materials I can related to my own MUD life. I will start contacting archives out there and see about copies getting on the Archive.

It’s time. Let’s go. Spread the word. My e-mail address, and aww yeah do I love saying this, is jscott@archive.org.

Let the work begin.


Categorised as: computer history

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12 Comments

  1. Auguste says:

    I can start doing some more sitegrabs. I’ve already got a few, especially about LambdaMOO.

  2. Stephen G. says:

    I know exactly what you mean about Wikipedia being a knowledge black hole detector. I’m was a very early Wikipedian, and I spent a significant amount of time in 2001-2002 documenting previous online encyclopedia projects on Wikipedia. Many of my articles have been deleted in recent years, primarily because significant pre-web efforts such as Project Galactic Guide were never written up in the mainstream press. If this is how Wikipedia as a whole treats subjects in its own historical context, imagine how good it is at the history of computer-related communities that have no link to it at all. I’ve been meaning to start an archive for this particular topic; maybe I should get started.

  3. anonymous says:

    I have the source for Nameless MUCK on a CD somewhere. Once upon a time time it was used by a multi-genre MUCK of the same name, and by Redwall MUCK. Its site does not seem to exist anymore.

    I have uploaded it here: http://www.nastyprisms.com/temp/nmcsrvr_1_21_b10.tar.gz

    Genealogy: TinyMUD -> TinyMUCK -> Fuzzball -> nmc

    Its site was at:
    http://nameless.realm.limitless.org./
    http://nameless.limitless.org./
    http://members.limitless.org./~nameless

    I know that you’re trying to archive histories, but I’m sure code can be useful too.

  4. ZorinLynx says:

    Longtime FurryMUCK user here. FurryMUCK is one of the larger themed MU* systems on the net, of the TinyMUCK variety, serving the anthropomorphic fan community. It was founded in 1990, I joined in 1995 and it has been one of my main social hubs since.

    I’m VERY happy to see you archiving MUD history. This is something that most today are not aware of, since MUDs are text only and don’t stand out in the wacky graphical online experience we have today. If you want any input concerning TinyMUCK in particular (I’ve been on a variety of TinyMUCKs) I’d be glad to provide.

    Thanks again for all you do, and congratulations on your new job. You deserve it. Completely.

  5. Shadyman says:

    DartMUD (thankfully) was able to keep its Wikipedia article after being nominated for deletion for lacking notability. I’d imagine many others were not so lucky :(

  6. Shadyman says:

    @Jason: Apparently I spoke too soon. Looks like someone is trolling to get many MUD articles removed. Bureaucracy much?

  7. Decius says:

    I tested wikipedia twice. I created a new account and promptly got Midphase (of blows goats fame) deleted. That was easy. Then I tried to add meaningful content to an article. After the research was done and the content written, it was a struggle to have the information included in any form; many edits were reverted with no justification or comment. It’s better suited for entertainment than for posterity.

  8. I know exactly what you mean about Wikipedia being a knowledge black hole detector. I’m was a very early Wikipedian, and I spent a significant amount of time in 2001-2002 documenting previous online encyclopedia projects on Wikipedia. Many of my articles have been deleted in recent years, primarily because significant pre-web efforts such as Project Galactic Guide were never written up in the mainstream press. If this is how Wikipedia as a whole treats subjects in its own historical context, imagine how good it is at the history of computer-related communities that have no link to it at all. I’ve been meaning to start an archive for this particular topic; maybe I should get started.

  9. Tom says:

    Wikipedia: can’t live with it, can’t live without it. I do think the concept is good – try to collect the knowledge that is in people everywhere, allowing them to adapt eachothers notes. But on the other hand, there’s a lot of crap on it, too. People tend to think it’s funny to write nonsense stuff about whatever subject it is. Too bad, ’cause the system could be of great aid to all of us!

  10. erectfro says:

    Can’t forget MajorMUD! Sure its not the best mud software by far but it brought a lot of people into the MUD world would have otherwise never have been exposed.

  11. Seth says:

    Don’t neglect MUSH/MUCK/MOOs I am terribly partial to MUSHes and I would love to see an archive of them. Many of the hosting sites I used to frequent are dead and buried 6 or 7 years ago.