OK, let’s do this one last time

We’ve been over this before, but here we are again.

I started this site on July 31, 2002 — three days before I graduated from college. For the record, I beat Daring Fireball by two whole weeks (quality wise, let’s say I’m a close second).

Illtron.com screenshot from July, 2002

The look that started it all

I had been making web sites for myself and others for six years before I started this site. Up until then, I bounced around between GeoCities and university hosting before ever establishing a true outpost of my own. In those early days, site was intended to be a journal of my post-college experience, a true weblog.

Now, 17 years later (it’s up to 22* now), I’d say I did what I set out to do. The earliest entries really do tell a story of setting out in the real world, and the highs and lows along the road from useless college student, to semi-productive member of society. I put about three good years in before I wandered off to work on other personal projects, but my early output was fairly prolific, and written mostly very late at night.

A lot of those early entires come off like I’m desperately complaining to the void, but the reality was marginally less pathetic.

“Never read the comments” has become a mantra in the era of Facebook Boomers gleefully sharing Nazi memes, but in the days before true social media, comments were the best thing we had. It was normal for tight-knit collections of AIM buddies, forum posters, blogroll pals, and IRC freaks to regularly go out of their way to check in on their friends’ blogs, and this site was no exception. Dig in on the Wayback Machine and see for yourself.

As part of an ongoing reorganization of my digital life, I’ve decided to scour saved files, old SQL dumps, and the Internet Archive and reassemble the entire Illtron portfolio in one place. I’m not sure if I’ve managed to save everything, but it’s damn close.

I’m not old enough to be an internet pioneer, but I do remember those early days, and they were good. Social media eventually appeared, and it was fun for a while, but it became an attractive nuisance.

The people I like on Twitter all seem to have disappeared, replaced with political shouting. Now, don’t get me wrong — I actually like that stuff, but it’s not a platform for sharing. For normal people — those without tens of thousands of followers — it’s purely a consumption platform, a fine place to follow along if you can keep the Nazis and bots out of your replies.

Facebook is, well, Facebook. It’s a shoddy website completely populated by sociopath Baby Boomers, which is only only a slight exaggeration. Most of the people I care to keep up with aren’t there either anymore, and the ones who are still there don’t share interesting stuff there these days. For the most part, Facebook has become a weird self-contained ecosystem, where people share pablum from other Facebook pages, with pages ripping off content from other pages, each time making it worse in some unique way. Also, I’m pretty sure I’ve never even used the word “pablum” before, but it works, so I’m going with it.

None of this is to say that social media is evil, or can’t be great for some things. At its best, it can be a lot of fun. What I’m getting at is that it’s not a platform for original thoughts, or even small, fun things, for normal humans. And that’s what this site started out as. Granted, a lot of what I wrote back then was pretty shitty, but it was a platform, and people did occasionally read it.

That’s where I’m coming from this time. I want my platform back. I don’t want algorithms or the cacophony to drown it out. If nobody’s going to see what I write, it’s going to be on my terms.

* Yes, I made a thing that keeps this updated live.