On the day when Manu succombed to the Pune German Bakery blast, I was drafting this posting, which was left incomplete at that time...
(and realising that it is important to close the loops/ 'windows' in life - if only for oneself - today, I sat down and completed it)
Some months back, when Yahoo! had sent out a mail informing that the "free" Yahoo! Geocities was going to be closed down on Oct 26th, '09 - with an option to transport one's site to a paid Yahoo! domain, I was in a quandry:
I had a Geocites site which I had created to preserve some cherished memories of a person - not just for myself, but also for many others who had valued that life. Creating that site was an act, not only of celebrating a life, but also of sharing - of creating a 'commons' for all those who were part of it.
Yahoo!'s mail told me that suddenly, that 'commons' had got usurped by the 'markets' - which required one to pay to share memories (the issue not being how much to pay! - but the fact that one has to pay!)...
Underlying this belief was also an understanding of the original architecture/rationale of the Internet - of an era, when "Hackers" were the "Heroes of the Computer Revolution" - the good guys, who built the Net, and when the "Nerds" represented the dark forces of narrow commercial interests.
In 2005, when one of the greatest Hackers of his time, Tim-Berner Lee - the scientist who invented the World Wide Web, had started his blog, he had written in his first post:
"In 1989 one of the main objectives of the WWW was to be a space for sharing information. It seemed evident that it should be a space in which anyone could be creative, to which anyone could contribute... Now in 2005, we have blogs and wikis, and the fact that they are so popular makes me feel I wasn't crazy to think people needed a creative space."
While downloading the files from the Geeta's site, which I had made, I had wondered if there can be a way to download all sites - and preserve not just what I had created, but also what all others had created to share. Not being a techie/"hacker", I did not know how that can be done - though knew that it can be done!... I had felt helpless, and had mourned the demise of the efforts of so many millions of people to share...
(Btw, being selfish, I did also opt for Yahoo!'s option to pay to maintain that site - paid the money, booked a site-name - but have not heard anything from them since...)
...so today, while searching for something else, my belief in the essential - though forgotten - "Hacker Ethics" of the internet got vindicated, when I chanced upon a website:
The person did this herculean Samaritan task was obviously the quintessential hacker, as defined by Eric Ramond:
"Hackers solve problems and build things, and they believe in freedom and voluntary mutual help. To be accepted as a hacker, you have to behave as though you have this kind of attitude yourself. And to behave as though you have the attitude, you have to really believe the attitude."
I loved and admired the Open Letter to Carol Bartz, CEO of Yahoo! from the "hacker", Jacques Mattheij, who had taken the pain and effort to keep a monumnet of collective efforts alive - hats off to you, Jacques!.... He articulated a thought which I had when I received the mail from Yahoo! - but so much more cogently... So let me quote:
- "When the Taliban decided to blow up those antique statues a while ago there was worldwide uproar. Thousands upon thousands of people spoke out against it, recognized that what was lost here was a unique statement of the cultural state of mankind, a sense of loss was felt by all.
In the name of religion, culture was destroyed.
And now, perhaps unwittingly, Yahoo! has committed a similar act. When those statues were blown up it was clearly an act of vandalism. That we are not in our lifetimes going to travel to Afghanistan to see them is a small detail.
But Yahoo! GeoCities pages were a monument too, and were accessible to (and accessed by) millions from all over the world. It was not just a business unit, it was something that mankind made, that Yahoo! had custody over.
It was a monument that stood as testimony to the birth of the World Wide Web, something that will surely occupy the scholars of the future. To Yahoo! it may have simply been a bunch of bits on some hard disks. But to humanity is was much more than that.
In the name of commerce culture was destroyed."
Thanks, Jacques!... for...
Postscript:... And just to add, the original "hacker culture" is thankfully well and alive... I also found that someone (don't know who) created http://www.oocities.com/ - restored the page at http://www.oocities.com/geetas_page/ too!