ASCII by Jason Scott

Jason Scott's Weblog

A Quiet Transaction —

Every day, fifteen thousand people visit That number is a little hard to fathom for me, although I try. My statistics program tells me that across a month, it works out to roughly a quarter of a million unique visitors from around the world. A quarter of a million.

I field about 200-300 emails a month about the site, ranging from dewy-eyed wonder to seething anger. That means less than one-tenth of one percent of the people who are on my site communicate with me.

This is fine with me. In fact, it’s more than fine.

I am saddened when I hear of sites that are popular, that get a lot of visitors who come because that site offers something unique or at least alluring, who then turn around and consider this not a gift, not a wonder, but a field waiting to be harvested.

I’ve sat through the emotional paragraphs, the insistent screeds, the angry rants indicating that they have the right to treat their audience as a series of floating coins in the air; to bounce around and snatch them like a game of Mario Brothers. I’m sure they hear the little “ding” noise while they do it, too.

Children learn by watching what others do, and I come into contact with young people who see that their sites must have banners, must have ads, must ask for Paypal donations because that’s how the world works, because that’s what they are told the world works like.

Make no mistake, I like money. I like money a lot. In fact, go ahead and send me money, tons of it. I’ll swim around in it like Scrooge McDuck and spit out the occasional gold watch.

But money does something to you, when you start to get it in tiny amounts from your site. It makes you change; it makes you look at things a little harder, consider things a little differently. Should I discuss this subject to get more hits? Should I not talk about this subject because it’ll drive my page ranking down and cause less donations? Suddenly, you’re no longer running a site… you’re running a storefront, a dingy amateurish storefront with a few glittering items in the window desperately trying to drag folks off the street long enough for it to register with the ever-seeing camera you’ve installed that will throw out coins if the person stays in your store long enough.

No, thanks.

There is a plugin program for the Firefox web browser called Greasemonkey. Greasemonkey is going to shoot a lot of this approach to a website in the head. Greasemonkey shoots out a tendril into your dingy storefront, smashes the camera, rips the advertisements in half and grabs your shiny baubles, all in about a millisecond and while other tendrils are doing the same thing all up and down the street.

The tendrils that shoot into will do work, but not very much. The biggest “my fault” complaint I get besides various concerns about content are the green and white color scheme, which I solved for people some time ago. My site doesn’t assault, doesn’t demand, doesn’t declare… it just offers the world as I have collected it to you.

Tens of thousands of people come to my site. Sometimes they come for one file, skipping my welcome screen, directory, explanations and context, just to directly yank their specific target and disappear forever. Sometimes people come and go and never knew they were on my site. I don’t brand the textfiles and I don’t use javascript trickery to detain folks like drunks in a cell until they are subjected to their required ad-watching. (With Greasemonkey on the job, they wouldn’t be able to anyway).

Make no mistake, I used to brand textfiles. I proudly wrote my script, made it brand the textfiles with where they came from, added a demand they visit me, insisted they know who I was and how great I was and how lucky they were to be getting this file from me.

I was also 13.

It was 20 years ago.

I also used to smash mailboxes.

I grew up.

A quiet transaction, that’s what I give. A silent, non-judgemental transfer of information from human being to human being, via machines designed to do so as quickly and fully as possible, with no data lost, no aspect removed. It is not flashy, it is not lucrative, it is not judged.

It is a miracle.

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  1. James says:


    So I guess you don’t have any stats on how many people access through your many mirrors.

  2. Jason Scott says:

    Sorry about having to repost.

    I have some rough stats and can see the stats from som eof them, but no, I really don’t. I guess that makes it more than a quarter of a million.