When I first started living in the online world fifteen years ago, a lot of people were still grappling with the ephemeral, intangible nature of the web, i.e. “anything on a hard disc is not real and one step away from deletion” and “online community relationships are not real, won’t last”.
People still lose data, and there are a lot of pretty shallow relationships on Facebook. But the online world now takes up such a large part of our lives that it’s hard to grasp the extent of the shift that has happened in the public consciousness.
Recently, an old friend and ex-host from Sympatico forums was reminiscing about all the great people we had in that group, and she sent a link to some of the stuff that is still online.
Now, this strikes me on several levels. Mike Potter was a leader within the sympatico community, a sort of hybrid maven/connector who brought people together and coalesced a thriving work-place community. When he was killed in Africa we posted a forum to remember him by, which was filled with thoughtful and heartfelt memories. It was one of the first times that I realized the power that “transitory” thread had to reminisce, forge stronger bonds, and celebrate Mike’s life.
The existence today of that link shows a couple of things. First, Mike and his wacky, poetic sense of humour lives on in his own graphics directory, a testament to the strength and persistence of that community.
Second, here we find him, nearly 10 years later, on a server that was long since closed down by Ma Bell. We’ve all seen the Wayback Machine, but this is somehow more interesting, because it is the archaeological remnants of a digital society. I doubt this will prove to have Egyptian-like staying power, but somehow persistence implies importance.