MC's journal

Prickle-Prickle, the 73 day of Confusion in the YOLD 3184

Collaborative working and writing

Updated 2018-08-07 23:22 with some edits and to include links to NEXUS FAQs and mention FIXION.

The Internets this morning are talking about the SCP foundation, a collaborative writing project. It made me think about an idea spreading around in the early 1990s about writing stories in a science fiction setting about yourself and your friends as you wanted the future to turn out. Then you were supposed to act in a way to make the stories come true.

In my mind this idea is connected to the NEXUS-Gaia crowd. NEXUS was a meme possibly best explained in Dwayne "ddraig" Jones-Evans' wonderful NEXUS manifesto. The NEXUS movement was about combining housing collectives and worker cooperatives to share an Internet connection. Internet could then be used as a means for forming a federation of nexi for commerce and coordination. NEXUS-Gaia was the main mailing list of the movement, all the nexi of Gaia.

My own living in the T1 collective 1996–1997, known for its early cheapernet Internet connection, and the Area 41 collective (1998–2002 — four adults, two kids, 18 computers and redundant Internet connections!) might be said to have been a small part of it. I'm sure many others tried to live the dream.

Here's my flatmate Magnus and me in front of X terminals in T1's office space, probably in 1997:

Figure 1: Magnus and MC in front of X terminals

We had a 19.2 kbit/s leased line when most homes in Sweden had dial-up at best.

In some of these stories I read/wrote back then we re-interpeted the Gaia of NEXUS-Gaia as the Global Association of Internet Anarchists, a rather suitable name for an association of free nexi.

Both the NEXUS meme of collaborative spaces and the idea of collaborative writing and trying to make it come true may have originated, or was at least much discussed, on the Future Culture mailing list in the early 90s.

I'm still subscribed to FUTUREC, but I can't seem to find much about this in the current archives. They only go back to 1996 and the mailing list itself was started (on another host) in ~1992. Some things are mentioned on Marius Watz' old FUTUREC pages, but not much. Still, have a look at Marius' pages for some really good vibes from FUTUREC of old!

After publishing the first version of this blog post Carl Winbäck reached out over IRC and pointed me to Heath Rezabek's old FAQs about the NEXUS movement:

Something to note about the FAQs is how much text is about trying to get a decent Internet connection to your home. It was difficult and much of the point of a local NEXUS was sharing the cost of Internet, a total non-issue for most of us today.

In FAQ 1 rez writes:

[The NEXUS meme] found its way into a body of collaborative prose, based on a fusion of fact and vision, called FIXION.

Ah-ha! FIXION might have been what I was thinking about. I'm not sure. What it would be like living in a NEXUS was probably vividly imagined in FIXION. I'm sure it was on FutureCulture. Probably on LERI-L, too, and perhaps on the IRC counterparts #leri and #future as well.

The FIXION archives were here at one time:

but the Wayback Machine has nothing from them.

FIXION grew into scrytching which Carl pointed me to. I don't think I ever heard about that before, although rez might have mentioned it on FUTUREC.

It's funny that writing about yourself in the future is just what Alan Moore, one of my favourite magicians, talked about in a clip I happened to watch last night, Alan Moore on Language, Writing and Magic, but that's just the usual synchronicity at work, I guess.

Written by MC using Emacs and friends.