This podcast about the internet and society really resonated with me, in particular, how each of the hosts described a time of great optimism for what the web could be, and how it’s all become pretty complicated and, um, disappointing in 2018.
So I thought about it and came up with my great (naive?) period of hope for the web. It was about 2006. I had stumbled upon a couple internet communities that were flourishing…
One was the show with zefrank, a quirky video blog that used a bunch of short, creative, and confessional segments by its creator. But notably it also encouraged, facilitated, and shared back contributions from the people who followed it. People were asked to (and did) submit little pieces of songs or sounds or pictures that Ze would put together in creative ways. The people who became the show’s community helped produce these cathartic pieces of group art. In today’s world — where groups of guys who’ve forgotten whether they are ironically or earnestly neo-nazis organize to abuse others on the internet — remembering old episodes of the show feels like remembering the internet’s Garden of Eden.
The other community was Radio Open Source, a public radio show and podcast hosted by Christopher Lydon (a name associated with the very beginnings of podcasting.) The setup of the show and the wide range of topics it covered fostered this incredible conversation on its website. Listeners shared insight from all kinds of perspectives that enhanced the context of each show and steered the direction of the next one.
Open Source has been through several incarnations through the years, and still exists, although I don’t think the community still does in the same way.