Luke Stay is my younger brother, and fellow geek like myself. I like his writing style so I asked him to start guest-blogging on Stay N’ Alive. You can follow Luke on his blog at http://lukestay.com, or on Twitter at http://twitter.com/afrowhitey, or FriendFeed at http://friendfeed.com/afrowhitey. –Jesse
About 6 months or so ago, my brother, Jesse, would not quit talking about some crazy new service he was using online called Twitter. One day, I got bored enough and decided to check it out. Little did I know, that service would serve as some sort of wormhole, propelling me helplessly through cyberspace into a strange new world, referred to by its own inhabitants as, “Web 2.0.”
I suppose I should start off with a little background on myself. I primarily work as a Stagehand in Las Vegas, NV for the local branch of IATSE. My area of expertise there is as an Audio/Visual Technician. As an A/V Tech, I am paid to install large screens, large digital projectors, large plasma screens, and many other audio/visual components for the various conventions and conferences that come to town. Sadly, I still use a 32” analog TV as my primary source of entertainment at home (yes, I did already get my free digital converter box, thanks for asking). I am an A/V geek, an A/V geek with debt that can’t afford any of the high-end components he installs on a semi-daily basis. It’s a sad existence, I know.
That being said, I am no stranger to computers or the Internet. I grew up trying to get my family’s ancient computer to do things it shouldn’t have been able to do and crashed it many times in the process. I learned computers by trying to get the family computer back up and running before Dad could come home to find out what I had done … again. I took programming courses in High School and Java in College, but ultimately decided programming was not for me. Instead, I chose to study film and have aspired to the life of a screenwriter ever since. I can’t write my own code, but I can understand most code and manipulate it to do what I want. In summary, I am a computer geek with a pretty lame disguise.
I started using Twitter mostly out of curiosity. At first, I just followed Jesse and watched, observing this strange society for a month or so. Then, I started to contribute, replying to some of Jesse’s tweets. This got his attention, and in turn, got me some more followers and a much larger society to observe. Things were pretty quiet at first, mostly Tweets about what people were doing, or what people were reading, or what new technology Apple was about to release, but then came a sort of uprising. I was witnessing a revolution.
These were the days of the infamous “Fail Whale.” Twitter was down and the natives were getting restless. The few tweets I saw actually come through were mostly complaints about their ruthless Twitter overloads. “Where did @replies go?” and “Why isn’t Twhirl working?” and “Can’t anybody do anything about this?” and “Will somebody PLEASE think of the children?!”
Just when things were looking the grimmest, new services began to pop up. Some began to move their discussions to FriendFeed, but that didn’t seem to work as a Twitter replacement. Others seemed to drop off the face of the planet, or at least the Web 2.0 planet. Others still stuck to their guns, pledging their allegiance to Twitter despite all its faults. Then, a new alternative emerged, Identi.ca.
Identi.ca billed itself as Twitter for the people; by the people, and quickly amassed an army of rebels set on taking down the evil, unreliable Twitter Empire. Among its strongest advocates were @JesseStay, @MarinaMartin, and @ThomAllen, and a majority of the small group of people I followed on Twitter. I decided to switch. My name is Luke after all, and Luke would never let himself be seen cavorting around with the supporters of the Empire. Not even Uncle Owen would do that.
In one month, I saw more activity and more of a community on Identi.ca than I ever had on Twitter. People were coding furiously, tapping into the new open-source API that Identi.ca offered. Bridges were built, new friendships were formed, manifestos were written, and new blogs emerged to welcome in the new recruits. Then, almost as quickly as it started, the revolution ended.
I came home from vacation and began to notice a lot of decreased activity on Identi.ca. Only one or two of the people I followed were posting regularly. I turned on my old Twitter account and there they were. The revolution had ended. The rebel army had lost. There would be no triumphant Ewok songs to welcome in the new era.
I learned a lot during my time on Identi.ca. I learned how to track certain terms. I learned how to find more interesting people to follow. I saw a lot of interesting conversations. Most importantly though, Identi.ca served as a sort of microcosm to the way this Web 2.0 world worked. There was a problem on the web, a shiny new service with lots of great features arose, and the masses followed like a swarm of hungry locusts. Then the old service, still much larger than the new one, fixed a lot of its problems, and the swarm came back home.
Since then, I’ve branched out a little on Twitter. I began to get my own followers and have my own little network of videographers, editors, and film geeks. I’m even following Dave Matthews (@DaveJMatthews) and Stefan Lessard (@SLessard) from the Dave Matthews Band (who are surprisingly active). My observations shifted somewhat to FriendFeed as I begin to utilize Twitter more and more, and I see the same sort of Identi.ca cycle on a much smaller scale almost daily. The Web 2.0 world finds some new product or feature, rushes out to play with it, review it, love it, or hate it, and then drops it completely as some other new product or feature is announced.
I remain a somewhat casual observer. I learned my lesson. In this strange new world, it’s better to wait out the flurry of hype that comes with the latest new web gadget to see if it actually takes root. If the locals drop it after a month or less, I don’t bother. Who knows, it may be the next Empire Strikes Back, or it may just be another Star Wars spin-off; a Star Wars Christmas Special in hiding.
I am such a geek