Do personal webpages even exist anymore?

I recently watched the 1999 documentary film Home Page, which looked at the personal homepage scene of the late 90s.

It took me back, man. Because I was right in there, doing all that stuff too. Just well away from the on-fire Silicon Valley scene.

Justin Hall, the focus of the documentary, was an inspiration for my website back then. He was the person who was doing it really well. His website was alive with a mad energy and he wanted everyone else to drink the Kool-Aid and get on board with this personal webpage experience.

And it was fun! There were so many other interesting personal webpages out there.

Because this was a time before Google and web search wasn’t always helpful, the best way to find other webpages was through links — essentially friends of friends. It meant there was kind of a scene, interesting people writing about interesting things on their webpages.

That in itself feels like such an ancient artefact now. Back then, people wrote and wrote and wrote on their webpages. Daily! Even multiple times a day.

I wrote about the shitty customers who used to ring up the helpdesk at work and didn’t have to worry about my boss reading it or those customers reading it because how would they have even found it?

The decline of personal webpages didn’t happen overnight. Ten years ago, I had a discussion at a Wellington web event, wondering if personal webpages were dying.

It’s death by a thousand cuts. Google makes it easier for everyone to find pages, so bloggers realise they can’t say everything about everyone (something Justin Hall later had to deal with). If people write about highly personal stuff, it’s in a more private place – a little twitter, a finsta, or a locked-down Facebook post.

More people get online and open blogs and it starts getting crowded. Social media came along and provided outlets for individual expression. Why go to the effort of writing a 300-word post when you can get your point across in a little tweet that’ll be seen by more people?

I tried to find 90s-style personal webpages. It’s impossible to google. Doing so brings up pages with loathsome titles like “Things entrepreneurs can learn from 1990s webpage design”.

There’s still personal writing, but it’s gathered on places like Medium or is published on a commercial site, where it takes on a different feeling.

And like the past, the web of the 1990s can never be revisited. Oh sure, a lot of those pages have been archived, but the intangible experience of surfing the net can’t be archived.

And archive can’t capture the feeling of seeing that one of our favourite website writers has updated their homepage with some new writing. It can’t archive the feeling of scandal when you noticed that person A has removed a link to person B’s website from their Hot Linkz list.

The 90s web only exists as an aesthetic, part of the vaporwave style, along with Roman busts, palm trees and Windows 95 screensavers.

This is not strictly vaporwave but you get my drift

Feeling nostalgic for this makes me feel like a Baby Boomer in the 1980s, who won’t stop going on about classic rock ‘n’ roll from the ’50s and ’60s. Except there’s no reissued CD. The old web is barely a memory.

So do personal webpages even exist anymore really for real? Well, I still have this.

I last updated this website in 2016, writing about the first series of Stranger Things. We’re now up to the third series (which I haven’t even watched, let alone had thoughts about the soundtrack).

Sometimes it feels like the most engagement I have with this blog is via the WordPress updates screen — because there’s always something that needs to be updated.

Maybe I should update not just the plugins, but the content as well. Then maybe the entrepreneurs will learn something from me.

Te reo Maori 419 spam

My dad received a scam email in te reo Maori. It’s a run-of-the-mill 419 scam, the “someone has died and had given you millionz of dollaz!” type. In this case, the generous cadaver is – according to Google Translate – “billionaire Business Mogul Late Mr. Moises Saba Masri, a Jew from Mexico”.

The idea behind these obviously stupid spams is they filter out all the smart people who can immediately spot the nonsense. What it leaves is the highly gullible, the type of people that a scammer knows will be worth spending time working on to get them to part with their cash. Putting the email in te reo adds an extra layer of implausibility to filter out even more.

So is there a te reo Maori speaker who’d read this and be all, “Wow, I didn’t realise I knew any billionaire Mexican Jews. What a kind and generous fellow”? I doubt it, but it’s interesting that te reo has made it onto the radar of the international scammers. Yay, New Zealand!

Update: A few people have pointed out that te reo Maori has recently been added to Google Translate, which is the weapon of choice for 419 scammers. But check out this info from Julian Wilcox. Intriguingly, Samoan and Tongan aren’t in Google Translate.

Update 2: Fairfax have written about the situation. The reporter asked me for a comment but – I am so lame – I forgot to reply to her email.

Bi-winning

This morning, for some reason, I kept thinking about Charlie Sheen’s crazy 2011 interview. This became the subject of the lone tweet I made:

It’s the typical Twitter motivation – something is annoying me, so I will tell you about it and maybe you will be annoyed too. I didn’t give the tweet or the subject much thought after that.

nzherald-tweet
@martynpepperell also comes highly recommended

Then later in the day, I discovered I was part of the New Zealand Herald’s “Top tweeters’ top tweets” list. The Herald had asked New Zealand’s top tweeters for their recommendations and Peter McLennan had kindly listed me for my efforts with 5000 Ways. This put me in the company of such esteemed tooters as Caitlin Moran, Hamish Keith and the Radio New Zealand time pips.

It also left me feeling a bit inadequate. 5000 Ways is on summer holiday and so I wondered if people had checked out my Twitter feed, seen the lame-arse Charlie Sheen toot and decided to instead take triathlete Bevan Docherty’s recommendation of following Ricky Gervais. But as it happened, I gained a few new followers and 5000 Ways had a noticeable bump in traffic – which is pretty major, considering how dead this time of the year is for regular web traffic. (Last year the site had two visitors on Boxing Day, both from Greg Johnson fans.)

So, an increase in Twitter followers and a boost in web traffic. The Charlie Sheen tweet hadn’t put everyone off. And like Mr Sheen, who declares “I win here and I win there”, I suppose this double success also makes me bi-winning. Um, yeah.

Human Wikipedia

Wikipedia is currently blacked out in protest against SOPA. I decided to put my giant nerd brain to use on Twitter, offering to act as a human Wikipedia for anyone who was in need of some knowledge.

@robyngallagher If you need to know something on Wikipedia, ask me instead. I will make something up.

@petrajane I would like to know how waffles were invented.
@robyngallagher A punk guy was making pancakes. One fell on the floor and he was so angry he stamped on it with his Docs. Waffles were born.
@petrajane cheers! now how are you on 80s TV trivia?
@robyngallagher I have several PhDs in the subject.
@petrajane since Wikipedia is down I have no way to check how many PhDs you have, so tell me about celeb cameos in Punky Brewster kthx
@robyngallagher The most famous celebrity cameo in Punky Brewster was famous 1980s celebrity J. Murray Davidson.
@samuelfscott Was Punky Brewster better than Blossom?
@robyngallagher In the high stakes world of crazy child actor names, Soleil Moon Frye-up was beaten by Mayim Blahblahblah.

@fogonwater @clerestories wants to know where the French castle from the TV show Merlin is located. She tried to look it up but #SOPA!
@robyngallagher It is the Sleeping Beauty castle at Euro Disney without any makeup on.
@fogonwater Why do bad things happen to good people?
@robyngallagher That time in 1992 when the old lady tripped up outside the bank and the good person didn’t stop to help her? Karma remembers.

@teh_nipples Who is the prime minister of Australia?
@robyngallagher That ginger lady. She’s not even a real ginger. She dyes her hair to get the sunburnt ginger vote.
@teh_nipples What are the names of the Furies?
@robyngallagher Ronald, Kristen, Kirsten, Janine, Ronald Jr, Steve, Ahmed, Jean-Pierre, Furry, Barack, Flurry, Far-Out, Ronald III and Scott.
@teh_nipples Oh, sweet. I think Far-Out might be my favorite. Who is Far-Out?
@robyngallagher Far-Out is a juggler cum chef. Unfortunately I am on “safe browsing mode” can so cannot explain what a cum chef is.

@isaacfreeman Wikigallagher! Do people speak Swahili in South Sudan?
@robyngallagher They do, but it’s considered jive talk, the voice of the streets.
@isaacfreeman Wikigallagher! I am now interested in …jive“. What is the origin of this term?
@robyngallagher It is an acronym, which stands for Juice Is Very Evil, an ill-considered marketing slogan by the Milk Marketing Board.
@isaacfreeman Also, streets. What is the difference between a street and a road? #humanwikipedia
@robyngallagher A street is paved in bitumen, a road is paved in the hopes and dreams of an entire nation and bitumen.
@isaacfreeman Is bitumen edible?
@robyngallagher It is, but only when prepared using the most tender leaves of the bituma plant, steamed lightly and served lightly salted.
@isaacfreeman That word “tender”… how did it come to be used in the phrase “legal tender”? #humanwikipedia #freeassociation
@robyngallagher People think lawyers are horrible, but they actually have a tender side to them. Objection, Your Honour – not enough hugz!

@carolgreen Who is that bird on X-Factor Aus – the one who isn’t Mel B? Hits?
@robyngallagher Natalie Bascjdfgeocghmsgioaght.
@carolgreen Ah, I should have known. Is that a Latvian name?
@robyngallagher It is Lithuanian. Some of her relatives anglicised the name to Basilbrush, but her side of the family kept it.

@trench I just wanna hit ur random button.
@robyngallagher Combine harvester.
@trench I need a list of important events that happened on this day in the past. AND I NEED IT FAST.
@robyngallagher 1912: Horse startled by motorcar. 1945: Hitler makes hilarious YouTube video. 1962: Man says sexist comment to secretary.

Excuse me, I had beans for lunch #ttrttpt

A few months ago I started to see a few people putting #ttrttpt at the end of some tweets, usually ones that related to some sort of miserable event. For example:

But I’ve asked him before and he keeps saying he’ll get back to me. #ttrttpt

I didn’t know what it meant, but thought maybe it was an expression like “pffft”.

It turns out it’s an acronym used by a small group of New Zealanders on Twitter. It stands for “this tweet relates/refers to the previous tweet”, and it is used to show that two sequential tweets are linked.

I think this hashtag started with a good dash of humour (and it looks like it was first coined by the fab @harvestbird), but somehow it’s been jumped upon by people who use the seven-letter hashtag seriously.

It’s not like it’s impossible to figure stuff out from context. Take a tweet like this:

It didn’t have any water in it. Phew!

I’m not left looking at it thinking “What does that even mean? So weird!”. Instead I’ll just scroll back a little bit and see this:

Arrgh! Mr Fluffy just knocked mum’s vase on the floor!

Years ago Ellen Degeneres had a comedy routine about how writing “PTO” in a letter is unnecessary. Does anyone reading a letter, she asked, actually get to the bottom of a page and wonder why the correspondent suddenly stopped mid-sentence, without thinking to turn the page over and check to see if there’s writing on the back?

Before #ttrttpt came around, was there even a problem with letting your followers know you’d written sequential tweets? No. Conjunctions – otherwise known as ‘nature’s #ttrttpt’ – serve that purpose well. And this also explains why #ttrttpt hasn’t caught on with the larger Twitter community.

The most hilarious thing about #ttrttpt is how non-users of it have no idea what it means. It’s not at all self-explanatory, so most people just ignore it or assume it’s some sort of a fart noise. Perhaps it actually is.

Things I have discovered about people I went to school with, based on about an hour snooping around on Facebook

  • A strangely large number of people have at some point had a profile pic of them looking all fancy at the races.
  • It’s an odd experience to see a photo of a bald, wrinkled man with a weird moustache and to think, “He used to be so beautiful when he was 16.”
  • Pretty much all the hot guys are no longer hot. They’ve either turned into boofhead sports dudes or have just got nerdy around the edges.
  • The weird girl with the mousy brown hair now has luxuriant blonde tresses.
  • Women whose profile pic is them and their dog = single.
  • Lots of people are Facebook friends with the cooldude music teacher.
  • Whoa, my primary school friend’s sister had a party where everyone came in blackface! Arrgh!
  • Some people look older than others, but that’s mostly down to fashion rather than biology.
  • Hardcore Christians have lots of Facebook friends. As do people in showbiz.
  • As usual, the really interesting people are the ones who aren’t on Facebook. (Or if they are, they’ve locked their account right down.)

Of shark eggs and dad-love

King's Arms toilet graffiti 2

The largest eggs in the world are laid by sharks.
The largest woman in the world is laid by your dad.

So, four years ago – and I mean exactly four years ago, September 29 2007 – I went to the King’s Arms to see Blam Blam Blam play. At one point I was in the ladies loos and saw this amusing graffiti in a cubical. I took a photo of it, uploaded it to Flickr, and didn’t give it much thought.

But it turns out it’s taken on a little bit of a life of its own. It’s become a minor internet meme, starting on toilet graffiti lolz websites and moving into the realm of general internet lolz. One blogger even uses the text as a tagline on his webiste.

But it tickles me that while the joke seems to be mainly enjoyed by dudes, the Shark graffitier, Dad graffitier and photographer were all ladies.

Life before cellphones

A Quora topic asks: What was daily life like before almost everyone had cell phones?

You know what I remember the most, kids? Making appointments with your friends.

Cool, I’ll be upstairs in the magazine section of Borders. See you there at 7.00.

Let’s split up and then meet back at the Bucket Fountain by a quarter to.

There was no “I’ll give you a text when I’m on my way”. You had to be prompt, but also a little patient if your friend was late. I kind of liked it better that way.

The olden inbox

I was reading a discussion of the “vernacular web” by internet artist and theorist Olia Lialina. Amid her exploration of the elements that made up classic mid-’90s webpages, she talks about how in those olden webpages, at the bottom of each page, there’d be a link imploring the visitor to email me.

And I read it and chuckled a little at memories of how webpages used to be. But then I read this in her closing paragraph:

Getting emails from visitors to my site is something I really miss, more than starry night backgrounds and clumsy framesets.

I cranked opened my old mail app and trawled through some emails from almost 10 years ago, from random people out there who were just emailing to say stuff. I felt like I was glimpsing a relic of a bygone era, a less hip version of those photos of modern Detroit ruins.

I had my tonsils out on Saturday. So i searched the internet and came across your site. May I say how you describe the experience amazingly?? You made me laugh, and then cry, because it hurt too much to laugh!!
– Jo

I thought I’d send you a postcard of the home town you escaped.
– Ross

hamilton

I am at work on a saturday nite (UGH) but your very unique POV has made the last few minutes tres interesting
– Jermeny

No postings for a while, I hope that you are OK.
– Harry

Thanks for brief tour from a fat, balding, impotent, socially dysfunctional sexual pervert with a small willy who is afraid of women (and horses)! Have a safe one!
– Paul

I stumbled on your weblog just now and thought it’s the best thing I’ve read for ages.. I never get around to complimenting people on stuff like that, so today’s the day. nice one.
– Vanessa

I have trouble buying shoes too. It sucks.
– Cherie

Back then, I’d usually reply. Sometimes it would end at that, but other times it would turn into a bit of to-and-fro correspondence, and a few times I ended up meeting the person on the other end of the email, and occasionally friendships were formed.

And I’d do the same when I came across a webpage I enjoyed. I’d send off emails with slightly guilty admissions. “I stayed up all night looking at your photos of historic Minneapolis! Your website is great!”

On average, I received about two or three emails via my website a month. But now, I’d probably get that many emails in a year. And – curiously enough – the people who do email tend to be older. My inbox is instead filled with mailing lists and bacn – those emails you sign up for but never actually read.

So where is the website feedback today? Well, with my website now in WordPress, there is room for comments at the foot of every post. On the chur post, this has turned into a space for people to share their theories of the word’s origin. (It’s short for Christchurch! No, Howard Morrison invented it! No, it’s Jamaican! No, it’s…) On the Newton post, codgers share their memories of the pre-motorway suburb.

But there’s no specific space for general comments of the “Oh hey, I dig your blog.” variety.

Then there’s Facebook. I have a feed of my blog going to my Facebook profile, so there’s also the ability to comment there. But you know what mainly happens? Yeah, Like. Like, Like, Like, Like, Like and Like.

It’s so much easier to click Like than to actually write something. But that’s ok. Clicking Like can say, “I have read the thing you wrote, I appreciate it but I don’t really have anything else to add .” And I’d much rather get a Like than those empty cliches such as “Wow. Just wow.”, “This.” or “Genius”.

Facebook private messages are similar to email, but for someone who doesn’t know me, it’s not as easy to message me on Facebook as it is (was?) to send an email.

So I’m slightly reluctantly accepting that the days of magic email are over. Email has changed into a different thing from what it was 10 years ago. I miss the specialness of getting spontaneous email from either from friends or strangers, but I’m not about to form a “I miss email!!!!” Facebook group. Instead I put my trust in the awesomeness of people in general to keep the magic alive in other forms of online communication.

All the things we should of gotten

One of my Facebook friends suggested that I join the Facebook page for Lone Star, the popular restaurant chain. I’m not sure why she did this, but I gave her the benefit of the doubt and checked it out.

It didn’t appeal to me enough for me to click “like”, but there was something else that caught my eye – this comment from a diner who’d had a few issues:

We just got back from lonestar chch city tonight using grab a meal vocher, also disapointed with our order. We had the voucher for classic ribs and also order the regular rib meal. I got my order, and still 20 mins later my partner was still waiting for his classic ribs. By this time, i had nearly finish my meal with the help of my partner. After asking about my partner meal, we then was told we should of gotten a corona with the meal as well. We were not told this and had already order wine and beer. Got given the corona, which my partner couldnt drink as he had already had a couple of drinks waiting for his meal and didnt want to be over the limit. Once he got his meal it was only the reg ribs, which we wanted the classic as that is what we chose for grab a meal. In the end we didnt even get the right grab a meal.

I love the way she writes. I love the consistencies in spelling and grammar. She should of gotten a nice meal with her partner. Instead she got given late ribs and a useless corona.

This makes me want to read it aloud at a pretentious performance poetry evening.