This whole affair with the Curator's Code has been uh, quite interesting. I'm not going to document it here at the moment but, suffice it to say as I was reading through the content related to it with a pretty gleeful look on my face. It was only when I stopped for a second and thought to myself, "Wait, wait a second, what is this feeling? It's damn familiar... What is it, what is it, what is it? OH RIGHT, I DO REMEMBER THIS! This is the feeling of pure gossipy enjoyment of a good, old fashioned Internet drama!"
Okay, seriously guys. I adore the tech community, but I can usually expect most of you to follow a pretty simple rule for avoiding Internet drama: if you don't like someone, you don't have to follow them. It's the Internet. Close the tab, avoid their links, they go away. It'smagic, I swear! The Curater's Code is helpfully contained in one simple website, easy to ignore and avoid.
But really, the golden rule of Internet wank is that it's always there because someone's sensibilities have been offended. And I guess I just didn't see that pure indignation spelled out, just a lot of rationalizing attempting to make logical a set of feelings.
Yes, even techies have them. Feelings. Never logical. Annoying. In the way.
These are the things of fabulous Internet drama.
So naturally, I couldn't help but be endlessly fascinated.
Why did everyone feel this way? What was the thing that wasn't being spelled out?
And then it hit me: Popova has offended a few of our fundamental beliefs about the Internet and how it should behave, what it represents - our sensibilities, if you will.
(I was equally annoyed by the Curator's Code, but maybe I've spent too much time with trolls because honestly? I wasn't so outraged as to remove my default status of "idgaf" that I apply to most things.)
Anyways, it's two-fold really.
The first is, the Internet isn't a place for top down governing. We are a mass for whom culture is not passed down from some producer or other media mogul, culture is simply decided on by some fortuitous and synchronous mass behavior.
Think about this: Would everyone have been so offended if Popova started using her crazy Unicode symbols on her own site, at the bottom of her own posts?
My guess is, probably not.
What if, then, some of her followers started using these short forms as well?
Nope, probably not.
What if a lot of other people then picked up the habit? What if the majority of the Internet was using it?My guess is, we would probably not care, not seeing it any more or less offensive as using "via," or "hat tip," or "~" (but seriously guys, a tilde? I don't understand where that came from, I've never seen it before, but, whatever, apparently that's a thing).
In short, the Internet has an authority problem. We just don't like to be told how to behave or what to do.
(No wonder I've always loved the Internet so much - I just cannot STAND being told what to do. It makes my skin crawl. Issues with authority indeed.)
And the second way Papova has offended us is a little bit more subtle, and maybe I'm imagining it, but I don't think I'm entirely wrong.
For those of us who've spent time on the Internet before this Web 2.0 kerfluffle, before every entrepreneur in the valley started wearing ugly grey hoodies and flipflops, there was, I think, an understanding built.
The Internet, it is true, is just a mass of wires and routers and servers and what have you. Papova seems to acknowledge this, and believe that there is something special about the way the web behaves today. That there is a fundamental difference between THAT web, the old web, and the wonderful enlightened world of us social web users. The Internet at large has rightly acknowledged that this attitude is a crock of shit.
Because if you spent time on the old web, you knew that this was not, in fact, true. The Internet was similarly social back then too, we just didn't have tools that were so instantaneous or feedback-generous (who else sat around watching their "hit counter" go up?!) or pretty.
To some degree, all information is social. All information is built by humans, and the implications of our social minds are built into it - remember when everyone thought the earth was flat? Or, for that matter, when everyone thought the earth was round? These were, after all, simply social memes that spread from person to person, no?
But the Internet has always made us acutely aware of that connected state of information - the way most people see Wikipedia these days, as a place to get lost in the serendipitous links between information, is a reflection of that. And whether these links be displayed on a Geocities page or a cutting edge Storify page, these links have been made by humans.
Papova seems to have pronounced that her bold wanderings into the depths of, eww, old school information sharing imbues her with the bravery and commendableness of an Indiana Jones-type explorer. That is a foreign world out there!
But information is social. And just as we created links freely before and after, we believe we should be able to create links freely now. There is nothing separating the analog and the digital world as idea spaces, there is nothing separating a world of static HTML pages from the world of dynamically generated ones.
These principles of accessibility, equality, and a slight anarchy is the ethos the web was built on. Somehow, the Curator's Code has managed to cut right into these hallowed values, and we probably just expected more from people who had used this very structure to create a name for themselves.
No wonder everyone's offended.