Code, nerd culture and humor from Greg Knauss.

I originally registered metababy.com for Alexis Massie. Plagued with insomnia and bored out of my skull, I spent the early hours of one morning a few years ago trolling the InterNIC, first for the domains I wanted, then for names that friends might be interested in. As the clock ticked over toward 2am or so, I stumbled across metababy.com -- as in Alex's Metababy mailing list -- and snatched it up, intending to transfer it to her if she was interested.

But she wasn't. We e-mailed back and forth for a bit -- it's a little sad how many jokes you can make out of the concept of "domain squatting" -- and I quickly forgot about the whole thing, leaving the domain to drop back into the pool after my hold expired.

But on the drive into work maybe a month later, I started to think about an article Alex had written, about what a completely editable Web site might look like. If you opened up a server and let anybody deposit anything they wanted on it, what would you end up with?

It's an interesting question, and after a few hours of coding, I had my version of an answer. Metababy 1 accepted e-mails to metababy@metababy.com and posted them to the front page of www.metababy.com.

The site took off, like nothing I've ever been associated with and in ways that I never would have expected. Thousands of people, over the next year, posted tens of thousands of pages to Metababy -- funny things; gross things; interesting, sad, insane things; wonderful things, great things. My back-end wasn't up to the task and it failed occasionally, but MBv1 was a success beyond my wildest dreams.

Version 2 brought the ability to edit existing posts, as well as a much more robust back-end. It also brought a dramatic change in the dynamic of the site, changed how people interacted and participated. With Version 1, every you posted was static. It would age off the front page into the archive, but once you sent the mail, it was cast in stone. Version 2 allowed anybody to edit any page on the site with their Web browser. Suddenly, nothing was permanent. It was closer to what Alex originally had in mind, but it frustrated a lot of people, I think -- they'd spend hours working on a page, only to see it destroyed in a few seconds by some chowderhead with too much time on his hands. A few times, the entire site was wiped clean, in what was either performance art or vandalism. The two are hard to tell apart sometimes.

With Version 3, I was going to try to hit a spot between the two, allowing the chaos of arbitrary editing while letting people preserve, for a short time at least, what they thought deserved it. But I've been trying to squeeze out the few hours that it will take me to implement those features for four months now, and I still haven't managed.

So rather than let the guilt continue gnaw at me -- and in the tradition of all late software projects everywhere -- I'm just going to push the old crap out the door and hope nobody notices. Metababy is back, as Version 2 II.

Heh.

Hi there! My name's GREG KNAUSS and I like to make things.

Some of those things are software (like Romantimatic and Buzz Clock), Web sites (like the Webby-nominated Metababy and The American People) and stories (for Web sites like Suck and Fray, print magazines like Worth and Macworld, and books like "Things I Learned About My Dad" and "Rainy Day Fun and Games for Toddler and Total Bastard").

My e-mail address is greg@eod.com. I'd love to hear from you!

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