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Meta-Meta-Nitpicking February 14, 2013 11:48 AM   Subscribe

Is it time to update the "About" section of the Profile pages?
What's the deal with your nickname? How did you get it? If your nickname is self-explanatory, then tell everyone when you first started using the internet, and what was the first thing that made you say "wow, this isn't just a place for freaks after all?" Was it a website? Was it an email from a long-lost friend? Go on, spill it.
Certainly we oldsters can remember the advent of the internet, and there was a time when we may have thought it was for freaks. But for many you may as well ask "When did you first use electricity?"

Possible alternatives:
What are your favorite creative endeavors?
What's your favorite band/musician?
Will plaid bell-bottoms for men ever come back into style?
I'm sure others will have much better suggestions.
posted by The Deej to MetaFilter-Related at 11:48 AM (126 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

Perhaps I'm a regressive luddite, but I've always liked that question. If gives a subtle sense of the site's history in relation to the rest of the 'net.
posted by zarq at 11:54 AM on February 14, 2013 [41 favorites]


As some old-timers are known to say, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."
posted by Lynsey at 11:56 AM on February 14, 2013


If we change the prompt, then the answers to the old prompt don't make sense anymore. I'm not against having some slightly more current than a decade text there, but how to get from there to now is a question.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:58 AM on February 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


I would tend to disagree.
posted by boo_radley at 11:58 AM on February 14, 2013


Nuh-uh.
posted by Your Disapproving Father at 12:00 PM on February 14, 2013


Free form, go vag!
posted by carsonb at 12:02 PM on February 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


It.... it is a little odd that
What's the deal with your nickname? How did you get it? If your nickname is self-explanatory, then tell everyone when you first started using the internet, and what was the first thing that made you say "wow, this isn't just a place for freaks after all?" Was it a website? Was it an email from a long-lost friend? Go on, spill it.
is visible on your profile page, but when you go to edit that field on the preferences page the prompt is
Say what you want here (example idea: what's the deal with your nickname? How did you get it?)
Not that I'm saying anything about that should change. I like a little odd. It just is. It's a little odd.
posted by carsonb at 12:09 PM on February 14, 2013 [6 favorites]


I was just thinking how that might be confusing for the kids these days just earlier today. GET OUT OF MY HEAD!

Though I don't think we should change it, as I kinda like it.
posted by Grither at 12:10 PM on February 14, 2013


So, does anyone else actually do a double-take when a person's profile answers the question? I have to sit there for a second and try to figure out what the hell they're talking about before I realize that the profile info asks a question.
posted by griphus at 12:11 PM on February 14, 2013 [9 favorites]


My daughter would have to say something like "I first started browsing YouTube on an iPad when I was 8 months, looking for just the right Elmo video".

She'll have to figure out later whether the internet is just a place for freaks. I say keep the question.
posted by odinsdream at 12:17 PM on February 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


You could change the wording, shorten the "discover the internet" part and make room for more "going nuts", like:

"So, what do you want to tell MetaFilter and the World about yourself?
What's the deal with your nickname? Why did you choose it?
How did you first get into MetaFilter? Or the Internet in general?
What are some of your favorite things/places/people/foods/positions/guilty pleasures/innocent agonies?"
posted by oneswellfoop at 12:17 PM on February 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


...and by "positions", I obviously mean political positions. Get your minds out of the gutter.
posted by oneswellfoop at 12:19 PM on February 14, 2013




About you. This is free form; go nuts.

All that was ever needed.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:23 PM on February 14, 2013


You have to be younger than ~20 to really not remember an internet that wasn't considered normal and omnipresent. Does the site membership skew that young?
posted by Wretch729 at 12:24 PM on February 14, 2013


If not presently, then soon.
posted by carsonb at 12:25 PM on February 14, 2013


Free form, go vag!

Actually, I think that might be more like, go ovaries! Which, I dunno... what?
posted by heyho at 12:29 PM on February 14, 2013


Sure, I just think everything should be labeled/prompted with cheer!
posted by carsonb at 12:30 PM on February 14, 2013


I think it's nice to hear the origins of usernames. You could maybe remove the sentence in bold and replace it with simply "How did you happen upon Metafilter?" or something of the sort. I don't think that would even throw many responses to the old question too far off.
posted by maryr at 12:36 PM on February 14, 2013


heyho: "Actually, I think that might be more like, go ovaries! Which, I dunno... what?"

"Govaries"? I don't think any variation will work.

maryr: "You could maybe remove the sentence in bold and replace it with simply "How did you happen upon Metafilter?""

"How is it that you found your way to us, my little poppet?"
posted by boo_radley at 12:42 PM on February 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yeah, that text is kind of long out of date. I think a better fix would be asking a few bio-type questions and making sure one of them is about usernames. Perhaps something like:
Tell us a bit about yourself: What kind of creative projects do you work on in yoru spare time? What are some of your favorite websites? What are your favorite MeFi posts about typically? Have you ever gotten great advice from Ask MeFi? What's the deal with your username?
Something like that both on user pages and the preferences page could open it up to more stories without the old ones seeming pointless.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 12:47 PM on February 14, 2013 [7 favorites]


If we change the prompt, then the answers to the old prompt don't make sense anymore.

I think they might still make sense because they're usually written in complete sentences. Maybe I should review a few more before declaring that, but I don't think you need a prompt at all to make sense of most of 'em (and some large portion of profiles totally ignore the prompt anyway, so you're on your own). I really don't think it would change a thing to say "About you. Free-form, go nuts."
posted by Miko at 12:48 PM on February 14, 2013


On viewing with Matt's comment: given the diversity of profile uses, do questions even make sense? People use the space for wildly varied self-expression. Sometimes it's stories, sometimes it's a list of favorite threads, sometimes it's just "here's me being clever," sometimes it's a short bio. I kind of like the random quality and like giving people a blank corner of canvas all their own.
posted by Miko at 12:49 PM on February 14, 2013


Does it help if I ignored the question anyway?
posted by Capt. Renault at 12:49 PM on February 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Perhaps I'm a regressive luddite, but I've always liked that question. If gives a subtle sense of the site's history in relation to the rest of the 'net.
posted by zarq


Good point. Maybe seeing that prompt is too much a reminder of my own advancing years. My small way to rage against the dying of the light.

If we change the prompt, then the answers to the old prompt don't make sense anymore.
posted by jessamyn


True as well.
posted by The Deej at 12:53 PM on February 14, 2013


Man. And just last night I was considering updating my profile's link to the Trojan Room coffee cam, too (it's not brewing much these days).
posted by mumkin at 12:54 PM on February 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


If we change the prompt, then the answers to the old prompt don't make sense anymore.

Could always just leave the original questions and tack some others onto it. Or set up some kind of menu of questions in our preferences. or do nothing, since I completely ignored the question anyway.
posted by IvoShandor at 12:55 PM on February 14, 2013


Have you forgiven Orson Wells?
posted by The Whelk at 12:56 PM on February 14, 2013 [5 favorites]


I love the old question, just as a reminder of where we've been, how far we've come, that kind of thing.

I'm all for people deviating from the question, and adding other questions, but *sniff* I love the prehistoric "when did you come into this territory, and was it by wagon train or canoe?" feel and would be sad to see it go away entirely.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 12:56 PM on February 14, 2013 [27 favorites]


I'm having this sense of deja vu.
posted by eyeballkid at 1:04 PM on February 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


I just ignored the prompt and wrote what I felt like. I mean, it's a bio field- why would I want to follow prompt questions?
posted by drjimmy11 at 1:10 PM on February 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


1. What's your name?
a. Fred
b. Cindy
c. Ricky
d. Kate
e. Keith

2. What's your sign?
a. Cancer
b. Pisces
c. Taurus
d. Scorpio

3. Where are you from?
a. New Jersey
b. Athens, GA
c. N/A

3. What do you like/love? (choose up to two)
a. collecting records
b. exploring the cave of the unknown
c. chihuahuas
d. Chinese noodles
e. computers
f. hot tamales
g. tomatoes
h. black-capped chickadees
i. to find the essence from within
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 1:11 PM on February 14, 2013 [20 favorites]


Have you forgiven Orson Wells?

For a second I thought this was in the OSC/Superman thread and thought OH GOD WHAT NOW
posted by griphus at 1:14 PM on February 14, 2013


Ah, remember the good old days when the internet was just us freaks?
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 1:20 PM on February 14, 2013 [4 favorites]


Maybe to preserve the 'what's your online history' element, we could have these:

What's the deal with your nickname? When did you first get online? How did you come to MetaFilter?
Or tell us anything else about yourself; freeform, go nuts.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 1:26 PM on February 14, 2013


Ice Cream Socialist, let's meet and have a baby now.
posted by mykescipark at 1:27 PM on February 14, 2013 [5 favorites]


Someone left the gate open, and regular people got in.
posted by The Deej at 1:27 PM on February 14, 2013


All they're doing is eating olives and drinking white wine.
posted by The Whelk at 1:32 PM on February 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


If we change the prompt, then the answers to the old prompt don't make sense anymore.

Before the current prompt, just add "Please read the instructions all the way through before writing anything."

And then at the end write "Actually, just write anything you want."
posted by bondcliff at 1:41 PM on February 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


My profile responds quite specifically to that prompt, so I would be sad to see it go. Not like, "I'm quitting MetaFilter and taking my posts with me" flouncy sad, just "Oh. Well. I guess I'll change it, then" sad.
posted by jacquilynne at 1:46 PM on February 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


Every time we talk about changing the profile I feel envious/sorry for Gator and TPS.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:47 PM on February 14, 2013 [4 favorites]


I think "How did you find us," and "What was your first experience on the 'net" are perfectly cromulent questions, though you could certainly add to them or update them. I wouldn't want them to go away, though. This is still a geekier-than-average crowd here, and they are largely applicable.
posted by Devils Rancher at 1:49 PM on February 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


IF profile blurb has not changed since 2/14/2013 THEN write the place for freaks stuff, ELSE write whatever.
posted by dirtdirt at 1:50 PM on February 14, 2013


I don't care what you damn kids do, with your hippity hop and sexbooking. By gosh, you'll know my nickname and where it came from.

*awkward pause to sip from a malted*

I'll spill when I'm ready to spill.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:06 PM on February 14, 2013 [4 favorites]


After 10 years, something becomes old.
After 20 years, something becomes obsolete.
After 30 years, something becomes ancient.
After 40 years, something becomes vintage.

Breathe through the pain, MetaFilter, and stay the course until you are cool again.
posted by DU at 2:36 PM on February 14, 2013 [4 favorites]


That website you like is coming back in style.
posted by The Whelk at 2:42 PM on February 14, 2013 [7 favorites]


Yeah I like it the way it is. It's like a Latin inscription on a library portico or something. New entrants can look up and wonder at the soft yet commanding glow of antiquity. Sort of like:

Metafilterum: faber est quisque fortunae suae
posted by Rumple at 2:47 PM on February 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


After 10 years, something becomes old.
After 20 years, something becomes obsolete.
After 30 years, something becomes ancient.
After 40 years, something becomes vintage.

What about after 50 years?

born in 1961
posted by The Deej at 2:55 PM on February 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


I remember it like it was yesterday, the first time Pa brought home a lead-acid cell from the laboratory...
posted by Zed at 3:18 PM on February 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


I like it the way it is and would like to register a strong vote for "keep the question about usernames".
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 3:19 PM on February 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


The older we get, the better we used to be
posted by ouke at 3:39 PM on February 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


there was a time when we may have thought it was for freaks.

There was a time when the primary services were FTP, telnet and email and those didn't seem particularly freaky to me. Unless you mean the WWW.

(oh yeah. I went there.)
posted by GuyZero at 3:44 PM on February 14, 2013


Unless you mean the WWW.

The Information Superhighway?
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 3:50 PM on February 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've staked out this little bit of lawn over here between Prodigy and AOL, and I have my hose at the ready, punks.
posted by Devils Rancher at 3:51 PM on February 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Information Superhighway?
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl


I have not thought of that term in a long time. Thank you. Or curse you.
posted by The Deej at 4:14 PM on February 14, 2013


I say it as much as possible because it is hilarious. Really it is a super highway for porn and adorable pictures.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 4:24 PM on February 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


Perhaps as an act of defiance, or in case the prompt ever does change, I just finally updated my profile and answered the prompts (including the one that many people answer but isn't even prompted: how did you find Metafilter?) So, thanks, I think?
posted by k8lin at 4:43 PM on February 14, 2013


Would it be possible to grandfather people in, i.e. have a system where after [x date] new profiles have the new question/no question/whatever, and profiles created previous to that date only change if the user edits their profile?
posted by capricorn at 5:10 PM on February 14, 2013


sheesh....i am just getting the hang of the old version and now you want to change it? you folks are too much

re-post this in 2023 and I will be more amenable to the change.

posted by lampshade at 5:26 PM on February 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Miko: "Maybe I should review a few more before declaring that, but I don't think you need a prompt at all to make sense of most of 'em"

My profile answers some of the questions. It wouldn't be nonsensical if the text changed but the phrasing would be, uh, weird.

Also I not only remember when one of the houses I lived in got electricity and I also remember putting up the massive TV antenna on the roof of another house to get ONE over the air channel. Mind you I also lived in a tent for six months when I was 4.

But boy howdy I live in a Science fiction wonderland now (TV on your phone! Which fits in your pocket! Book readers that hold thousands of volumes and can borrow books from the library via radio! Also newspapers from around the world in real time. Cars that get 50 miles per small US Gallon and gas/electrics that get 120 equivalent. Satellites that can talk to your phone/car and tell you exactly where you are on the planet. ) and it amazes me everyday.

RE grandfathering. It would be pretty easy to automatically prepend the current text to the beginning of the profile at change over. If the prompt was changed to something simple like "Free form, go birds!" then it wouldn't clash much. Maybe with a little note explaining where the text came from. That way anyone who has either left or doesn't want to change their profile will still have the continuity and everyone else can delete or keep it as they prefer.
posted by Mitheral at 5:56 PM on February 14, 2013


That way anyone who has either left or doesn't want to change their profile will still have the continuity

Yes! Think of the children!
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:08 PM on February 14, 2013


Or just add a link to this discussion labeled "Need inspiration?" I think it helps to have some sort of idea of what is "normal"/expected. It helps newbies try to fit in a little.
posted by Michele in California at 6:12 PM on February 14, 2013


As with all things Meta, let us consult Rock -N- Roll for the right answer.
posted by Sailormom at 6:17 PM on February 14, 2013


Shouldn't that be think of the grandparents TPS?
posted by Mitheral at 6:28 PM on February 14, 2013


> If we change the prompt, then the answers to the old prompt don't make sense anymore. I'm not against having some slightly more current than a decade text there, but how to get from there to now is a question.

I think you don't need to. Who cares? If I land on a profile and am confused as to what the reply is...eh? I think it would be an incentive for people to update their profiles. It would also be an indicator of how active the person is. I'm fine with the break from tradition.

Then again, I thought it was silly when I filled out my profile so ignored it.

I think general internet profiles are common enough no one needs prompting.
posted by cjorgensen at 6:35 PM on February 14, 2013


I was there before the internet was even a series of tubes. I was tehre when the internet was Encarta '93.
posted by turgid dahlia 2 at 6:50 PM on February 14, 2013 [5 favorites]


I'm having this sense of deja vu.
What, again?
posted by dg at 7:02 PM on February 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


What kind of creative projects do you work on in yoru spare time?

I suggest we leave Matt's typo in as a litmus test to see if people really fit in with the MeFi culture.
posted by arcticseal at 7:06 PM on February 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


If gives a subtle sense of the site's history in relation to the rest of the 'net.

Not everyone joined in 1999.
posted by John Cohen at 7:08 PM on February 14, 2013


I think I once paid EarthLink to remove the tilde from my website address.
posted by The Deej at 7:14 PM on February 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


It's great, 'cause it makes me at 27 feel like a hip, young guy.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 7:32 PM on February 14, 2013


I remember Encarta '93!

I too answer the question in my profile and would like to see the question stay.
posted by two lights above the sea at 8:58 PM on February 14, 2013


Nthing that my profile answers the questions, and please keep it the way it is.
posted by immlass at 9:14 PM on February 14, 2013


Not everyone joined in 1999.

So?
posted by zarq at 9:19 PM on February 14, 2013


Signs point to no.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:19 PM on February 14, 2013


Please keep it! Speaking as someone who grew up on crappy Geocities-era Internet, with AskJeeves and active IRC channels and Neopets, I like hearing about how people older than me got into using the Internet. It makes the Internet sound like this magical thing (and you learn about stuff like BBSes, which sound like they were so much fun).
posted by topoisomerase at 9:58 PM on February 14, 2013


I got into it to look up videogame cheats on GameFaqs. Now I post about videogames on Metafilter. So much has changed!
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 10:09 PM on February 14, 2013


And, also, maybe it should remind you to list your UUCP bang path, WWIVnet address, FidoNet address, etc. just in case.
posted by Rhomboid at 11:09 PM on February 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


Leave it aloooooone, I love it just the way it is. MeFi is all the better for a little fossilized cruft.
posted by Scientist at 11:12 PM on February 14, 2013


Mine actually answers the question, but you'd never know it from reading it. Or you might.

But, I think whatever decision Matt and the Mods decide, it will work out just fine.

I wish users would update the links to their websites if they have such a link. Or, update the actual website linked to. Some of you haven't posted on your blogs since the the Bush administration.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 12:02 AM on February 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Welcome to gopher at metafilter.com!

This server has a lot of information of historic interest, funny, or just plain entertaining.

There are many mirrors here of rare or valuable files with the aim to preserve them in case their host disappears.

PLEASE READ "About This Server" FOR IMPORTANT NOTES AND LEGAL INFORMATION.

>About This Server
>Archives
>Books
>Communications
>Computers
>Current Information (updated Jul. 14, 1999)
>Signs
  >Pointing to 'No'
    >All Of The Signs

posted by obiwanwasabi at 12:04 AM on February 15, 2013 [6 favorites]


and you learn about stuff like BBSes, which sound like they were so much fun

Sure, if you think listening to numbers dialing and busy signals for an hour so you can spend 15 minutes trying to download pixelated EGA porn before one of your parents picked up the phone was fun.
posted by empath at 1:09 AM on February 15, 2013 [8 favorites]


fuck yes gopher. I lived for gopher. I covered my modem with my blanket, stuffed the bottom of my door with another one, and prayed to non-denominational deities that my parents wouldn't hear it wheezing and beeping, as I connected to a local freenet (I'd moved on from Prodigy by then) to browse library collections in universities around the world in all their textual glory, my 16-year-old heart beating fast, face basked in the soft gleam that can only come from a black background with white text, my stomach beginning to ache as the hours wore on, my imagination working out a way to one day, in a future I could just barely envision, visit the Sorbonne library and hold one of its tomes in my hands. Then I'd see if I could find the same book in the UO library; I could go there and imagine holding it in France...

Sometimes my parents would burst in, tell me I was going to hell for my whoring ways, chatting with strange men on the internet. Thus I understood the psychological phenomenon of "projection" from a young age.

I was made for MeFi, peeps.
posted by fraula at 3:07 AM on February 15, 2013 [10 favorites]


FYI, if you didn't want to hear the modem speaker you could change the initialization string to silence it. It was only on by default so that you could hear if a person picked up so that you could stop it from redialing and bothering them. If you were sure you were dialing a BBS, there was no reason to need the speaker. Later models even had the capability to detect a voice, which would automatically stop the redial, making even less reason to need the speaker on.

If I recall correctly the Hayes command that controlled this was Lx, with L0 meaning no speaker, and nonzero numbers adjusting the volume. So all you had to do was go into your comm program and edit the init string to stick a L0 at the end and no more modem sounds. Every modem I ever encountered supported this. If you were fancy enough to be using Windows 9x you didn't even need to know anything about init strings, as it was all abstracted away by the modem settings file, and there was instead just a radio button in the GUI somewhere that you could use to adjust the volume or disable the speaker.

Apparently this was little known information, because in remembrance threads such as this one I always see people talking about having to be careful not to wake others when using the modem late at night.
posted by Rhomboid at 3:26 AM on February 15, 2013


I am fervently opposed to MetaFilter feeling more "modern" in any way. Look at those modern web sites! They suck! Who wants to use a Titter or a Tumble?

MetaFilter is the gatekeeper to the rest of the Internet, and the more it feels like it exists in a time before time, the better I like it. If anything, the questions ought to be even more dated: what was your secret telegram sign-off? Which of Gustav Sebald's coded movies did you most prefer, Zombies in the Snow or The Littlest Elf? When the trumpeter played at night and his thin brass whistle sounded across France, were you manning the smoke signals or just sitting by the fire, telling the signaller how much this new trumpeter sucked?

If we start feeling too recent then the young ones will discover us, and I don't want no fuckin' nineties kids on my MetaFilter.
posted by Rory Marinich at 4:12 AM on February 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


Yeah, once the 20-23 crowd shows up, it's time to move on.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:30 AM on February 15, 2013


Sure, if you think listening to numbers dialing and busy signals for an hour so you can spend 15 minutes trying to download pixelated EGA porn before one of your parents picked up the phone was fun.

So, yes?
posted by Elementary Penguin at 4:55 AM on February 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


I say leave the prompt forever, and if there's evidence it is confusing or off-putting to new users, consider adding a line before: "This message has been here since 19xx and by popular demand we've kept it as an historical marker. Write whatever you like in the profile field."
posted by Mngo at 5:13 AM on February 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Can you just make displaying the prompt optional for each user, with the default set to yes? That way, it stays up until someone actively decides to remove it - lessening the probability that their text will consist of an answer to a disappeared question.
posted by prefpara at 6:18 AM on February 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


I like it a lot when people populate their profiles, and I wish we could still spiff them up with images, color, etc.
posted by theora55 at 6:47 AM on February 15, 2013


Before the current prompt, just add "Please read the instructions all the way through before writing anything."

And then at the end write "Actually, just write anything you want."


Yes. Amend the constitution, don't throw it out. The original wording was carefully crafted by the Founding Father.
posted by Kabanos at 6:51 AM on February 15, 2013


Yeah, once the 20-23 crowd shows up, it's time to move on.

FWIW, I'm 24 as of last month and can distinctly remember the first few times I used the internet.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 6:55 AM on February 15, 2013


FWIW, I'm 24 as of last month and can distinctly remember the first few times I used the internet.

The fact that I know your memories won't involve references to using Compuserve at a department store makes me feel old.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 7:00 AM on February 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


FWIW, I'm 24 as of last month and can distinctly remember the first few times I used the internet.

I'm 40 and can remember the first time I fired up the internet on a Mac LC III with a 13 inch monitor.

Haven't been the same since.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:02 AM on February 15, 2013


FWIW, I'm 24 as of last month and can distinctly remember the first few times I used the internet.

My son is 7 and while he won't remember a world without internet, he'll certainly remember the experience of learning how to use it. It's not really that much like electricity, except for its ubiquity. He knew what a light switch was, and how to use it, when he was 2. I think he's only now just starting to know what a search engine is. Lots of his toys use electricity; none of them use the internet -- sometimes he watches movies on the iPad, but for him there is no clear difference between that and the TV.

Home computers are a lot older than the Internet, and "tell me about when you first started using a computer" is not a weird question the way "tell me about when you started using electricity" would be.
posted by escabeche at 7:30 AM on February 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


As Kattullus mentioned in the 2007 thread, perhaps the prompt could default to the existing format, and allow users to edit as they wish? And I thought I was going to be groundbreaking in such a suggestion.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:11 AM on February 15, 2013


I'm 22 and I remember the first time I used a computer. It was an old Mac and there was a matching game where you put pieces of fruit together and got points. I was convinced the points equalled money. I was also convinced the pixels were money for some reason, and counted them over and over, hoping I would make a fortune. Three years old and I was already destined to go into advertising/web start-ups. If any of you tells anybody this I'll deny it.
posted by Rory Marinich at 8:15 AM on February 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sure, if you think listening to numbers dialing and busy signals for an hour so you can spend 15 minutes trying to download pixelated EGA porn before one of your parents picked up the phone was fun.

Or hearing from your boss why the fuck is our phone bill over $400 this month?! Because all those BBS calls were long distance...to a city around 30 miles away.

Kids these days...
posted by Celsius1414 at 8:44 AM on February 15, 2013


Weird - the prompt on my end of the userpage reads:

"How many lines of asterisks can you fit on this page? Show me. Also, make a bunch of them link to interesting youtube videos, then plan on adding more as time goes on but just kind of forget about it after like a day or two."

What's all this about a place for freaks?
posted by item at 8:59 AM on February 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm 40, and I was over a friend's house in 1992 when she brought up Prodigy on her computer. She was so bored by it "Can you believe my dad pays for this?" and I was absolutely amazed. I begged and wheedled and saved up my money (full time college, PT job, living at home) and finally my mother got a computer that could handle a modem. I bought the modem and paid for the Prodigy service. We fired it up in early 1994. It was beautiful.

As someone who came of age when the most dynamically content-rich things I could do would be to call a 900 number to get my horoscope each day or call one of those weird party-lines I am still ensorcelled by being able to sit at a keyboard and get information on anything I want. And now it's on my phone!

Sincerely,
KYFX39A
posted by kimberussell at 9:00 AM on February 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


there are 118,770 *'s on my page. I think I should get a nice plaque or something.
posted by item at 9:05 AM on February 15, 2013


I support leaving it as is, but would suggest an addendum designed to appeal to the newer, hip hoppy user base. Such an addendum would naturally incorporate the essential culture of the site, the Mefitism, if you will, that we older, established users hold dear.

For new and happenin' trends on the Internet, aka 'memes', my goto reference is young user elizardbits' teen wofl sexbook tumblr[sic] webpage.

Upon due diligence, therefore, I have formulated a "catchphrase", applying the appropriate cool kids 'lingo', which I believe will suffice.

(*puts on reading glasses*)

(*clears throat*) Ahem:

Tell us ALL the things! Because beans.

Thank you for your consideration.
posted by misha at 9:07 AM on February 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


Oh god, my Prodigy ID was TVJA42A. Why do I remember that? I remember when we got the Prodigy upgrade, so that it ran in Windows instead of DOS, and I still remember how amazed I was at how much nicer it looked. I was a little sad when we abandoned it for AOL.

I also may have gotten my father to spend $100 to buy me 100 hours of the Sierra Network so I could play Shadow of Yserbius.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 9:10 AM on February 15, 2013


Oh god, my Prodigy ID was TVJA42A.

Back when Prodigy required you to have a HAM operators license, apparently.
posted by odinsdream at 9:35 AM on February 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


I can't remember my Prodigy ID, but I was home with a newborn and in 1990 I heard of 'modems'. I went over to Radio Shack and figured it out. The first thing I found was GOPHER, then The Well, then Prodigy. I would show people this COOL NEW THING, but it did not garner the interest I expected from friends and relations.
posted by readery at 9:50 AM on February 15, 2013


Oh man, I forgot about my endless and ever-changing string of AOL handles (you could have five on an account, if I recall - there was one main one, that was boring, and my sister had her own, and the other three were constantly rotating as I played with identities. At least one of them is on my list of possible future pseudonyms, should I need one.) Man, that was a halcyon time, back before I imagined that a random internet handle would, in fact, consume my identity entirely.

Could have been worse. Could have been much, much worse.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 9:50 AM on February 15, 2013


Ha ha ha I can to this day recall perfectly every AOL/AIM handle I've used. There's about ten of them.
posted by griphus at 9:53 AM on February 15, 2013


theora55 said "...and I wish we could still spiff them up with images, color, etc."

I have seen one with a colored background. I could not figure out how it was done. I debated memailing the offender (of whom I am insanely jealous) but couldn't figure out how to broach the topic. I suck at starting discussions, so also opted to not make a fool of myself publically by inquiring on MetaTalk. Still, I have a sample of one suggesting it can be done...somehow.

Maybe it's magic.

Back on topic.
posted by Michele in California at 10:25 AM on February 15, 2013


> I have seen one with a colored background. I could not figure out how it was done.

It was done way back in the old days when such changes were allowed. If they made any change to their profile now, that custom formatting would be erased.

Also, I was going to link Gator's profile but it looks like his gator is broken now.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:29 AM on February 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


The two(?) users with custom profile pages had them grandfathered in after custom css stopped being allowed.They are hard-coded into the site now, and to my knowledge there are no plans to allow new custom profile pages. Just one of those weird bits of MeFi history.
posted by Scientist at 10:30 AM on February 15, 2013


I worked at a T-shirt shop from about '88 to '91, and at some point in there, my boss got himself a Prodigy account. I only got to sit down at it once or twice, though I was intrigued. He was mostly excited about sports scores, which I was kinda.. meh. It was an old 286 machine running Windows 3.1, which didn't exactly excite me. The Mac Classic across the room was more enticing as a device, but wasn't hooked up to the modem.

I went into business for myself in '92, & the next year, we bought a Centris 610 which came with a 14.4 modem. Got set up with an AOL account pretty quickly, though it only took me about 6 months of them kicking me off line every 10 minutes for me to throw up my hands and call a little local company called Realtime to come over and type their magic into my PPP control panel. I met a nice Mormon girl from Utah through a case of mistaken identity over ICQ, and we chatted nearly every day for most of the next year. I wonder how she's doing? Was also a regular contributor to the Chalkhills digest for a while at that point. Awesome crew of folks.

In about '99, I went to install Netscape 6, and it blew up in spectacular fashion -- literally scattered hundreds of files across my desktop -- it really looked like an explosion when it happened (how did they do that?) and I began casting about the web for help undoing the mess. I settled into the Mac News Network forums over the next couple years, and at some point in 2001, someone there posted a link to Metafilter in the lounge.

Now, ya'll are stuck with me, probably until I die.
posted by Devils Rancher at 10:56 AM on February 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


The first time I *tried* to use the internet (in '93 or '94) I wound up on Gopher instead and thought "This is boring. So much for this internet thing I've heard so much about."
posted by The Card Cheat at 11:00 AM on February 15, 2013


I guess I should copy/paste all that into my profile.
posted by Devils Rancher at 11:00 AM on February 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm 22 and I remember the first time I used a computer. It was an old Mac and there was a matching game where you put pieces of fruit together and got points.

But Rory, was your old Mac this one?

No internal hard drive, just 128k and non-upgradable. That was my first computer. My Dad even shelled out for the external floppy disk drive later, so we were ahead of the technology curve! We kids mostly just used MacWrite and Paint, which AMAZED us. You could draw on a computer?! It was even more amazing when we got some games on it (requiring many floppy disk changes), though.

I still remember the warm feeling the little happy Mac face that came up when you turned it on would give me. In fact, I made my own embroidery pattern of it! It wasn't very good. I'm new at designing patterns and working on a better one as we speak, with satin stitching--but I digress.

I have tried to explain the utter desolation the Mac bomb could instill in us to my own kids, who are college and high-school aged now.

Their X-box's Red Rings of Death are probably most analogous, but you can get an Xbox fixed relatively quickly these days.

Back then, you were looking at weeks with no computer, or shelling out for a new one (and you'd be shelling out four digits, too, not including $675 for the Imagewriter dot matrix printer!).

And to think I originally typed this comment, links and all, on my iPad mini. I live in a science fiction novel now. :)
posted by misha at 11:12 AM on February 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


The first time I *tried* to use the internet (in '93 or '94) I wound up on Gopher instead and thought "This is boring. So much for this internet thing I've heard so much about."

I was the first person in my department at work to have 'net access. This was back when we had a Token Ring network and they had to do something special to my machine to hook it up. I showed someone that I was "browsing the internet" and he looked at it for a minute, turned to our boss and said "Whatever. It's just like Channel 1". Channel 1 at the time was some local BBS. He just didn't get it.

Then I had to attempt to answer my boss when he asked me "where IS the internet located?"

Before then I was an AOL guy and before that some early BBSes with my TRS-80. One called The Gater Bowl and another one run by the Framingham Color Computer Club, which is sort of crazy to think back then if you had a computer you could join a club to talk to other people who also had the same computer. Mostly we just traded software.
posted by bondcliff at 11:14 AM on February 15, 2013


Sort of a self-link here (I work for de company) but I thought this article was hilariously cute: Couple that met on AOL in 1999 now has a family of 7 kids.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 11:23 AM on February 15, 2013


MeFi is all the better for a little fossilized cruft.

Aw, thanks - you're sweet!

My first time using the internet was using command-line SMTP in 1994 to send email from Ecuador (I was an exchange student in Quito) to my brother, in college back in the states. In my head, "SMTP" still stands for "Send Mail To People."
posted by nickmark at 12:04 PM on February 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


I was a BBSer at the very end of it in the early 90s. My first experience meeting people from the internet (I'm sure I've told this on MF before but whatever) was going down to Chinatown in Washington DC to play rpgs with my best friend and some strangers from a Roleplaying BBS. We were 13 year old punks and we were terrified of being in the hood, and not at all terrified of going into strange adults homes, who, the adults, were pretty bemused by the grungy kids who literally thought we were Neuromancers.

My memories of BBSes are great. I created a whole persona based on Zen & The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, and wrote endless pretentious diatribes and puns and gross short stories and shared them with smart people who were so bored they actually downloaded them and read them. Actually it wasn't that different than my online persona now. Not sure if that's depressing or wonderful. I love you internet. <3
posted by Potomac Avenue at 12:18 PM on February 15, 2013


1980s. Commodore 64. 1200 baud modem, local BBSes and Q-Link. My family lived so far in the sticks that it was a long distance call to access any of them. (Thanks for not getting too pissed at me, dad.)

Fast forward to college... email and usenet via the school's UNIX mainframe. Then one day someone showed me this thing called the "World Wide Web" on a new-fangled browser called Netscape. I never made it out of that rabbit hole.

I like the existing prompt. To me it's like stumbling on an Armet & Davis coffee shop that hasn't been remodeled since the 1950's.
posted by usonian at 12:19 PM on February 15, 2013


Also, I was going to link Gator's profile but it looks like his gator is broken now.

I was getting ready to be upset, but the gator works for me.
posted by Gygesringtone at 12:30 PM on February 15, 2013


For crying out loud.

Mom used to tell me stories about the first house she lived in that had electric lights. she was in her teens. The water pump was inside, though, a hand pump over the kitchen sink, and the outhouse was down by the barn.

When I was a tadpole: I was lying on the grass at night, next to the front porch. Mom sat on the porch, in the dark. We listened to "The Whistler" and such on the radio, and I stared at the sky, trying to find the Sputnik as it passed over. Never did.
posted by mule98J at 12:40 PM on February 15, 2013


My internet old fart credentials come from the fact I managed to hook up with a wonderful lady from the other side of the world using a music message board in the 90's. Young people and their ok cupids and whatever else, they don't know nuttin.
posted by deadwax at 10:30 PM on February 15, 2013


If we‘re voting on this issue, my vote is not to change it. Back around the turn of the century, I was jacked in, and practically lived online.
Then, due to a series of circumstances too personal to share with a bunch of strangers, I went completely offline. For five years or so.
When I finally came back, everything was different. Googleads. Facebook. And hey, what the hell happened over at Plastic? When did it start to suck so bad?
One thing didn‘t change; the blue was just as witty, and as cool as the day I left it. So, please, for the iceman who is Jughead, don‘t change a thing...
posted by Jughead at 10:40 PM on February 15, 2013


nickmark: "My first time using the internet was using command-line SMTP in 1994 to send email from Ecuador"

When I first started University we used to impress the girls with our "elite" "hacking" skills by telneting into open SMTP gateways and then spoofing the headers to send them mail apparently from the whitehouse (.gov not .com as that came later).
posted by Mitheral at 12:56 AM on February 16, 2013


I entered the internet via a Sega Dreamcast gaming system and dial up connection. My first search engine was excite! Pretty sure I found metafilter during these very early days.
posted by TangerineGurl at 2:40 PM on February 16, 2013


Played dancing demon on TRS80.
posted by SyraCarol at 4:46 PM on February 18, 2013


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