(copied from a plain text file I wrote for my friends/coworkers entitled "Why you might be interested in my database-backed web-server from hell project."


1. ...because I have a webbified version of Thus Spake Zarathustra
languishing someplace behind a bunch of broken links. Six years after I
converted the original plaintext to HTML, random users are *still*
pestering the local Webmaster about "The Zarathustra Site". Some of them
are profs teaching Nietzche courses at various colleges. I could tell
them all to go Zarascrew themselves, or I could dig up the moldy old
static hypertext file... but wouldn't it be cooler to provide this
ready-made audience with an interactive Zarathustra site, where they
can insert their own threaded margin notes, moderate each other's
commentary up and down, share old term papers they've written about
Nietzche, and so on?

2. ...because if it works for one famous literary work, why not others?
We could branch into every great book with an expired copyright just
about as fast as we can feed them through a perl script into a database.
Think about it, do you really believe this can possibly *fail* to attract
interest from college students taking intro lit classes?

3. ...because this can be taken one step further. What if all the
religious texts were placed together on one site for commentary and
discussion? I bet we can cover most of them in less than 50 Mb of
disk space, initially. If they attracted enough readers/contributors,
wouldn't this be just the forum in which to develop new consensus ideas
of human spirituality? A common body of old and new religious writing
that everyone can access, and more importantly, contribute to?

4. ...because John wants to write a web game. A really cool web game
involving interstellar empires. I believe that if John had a database
server, and a handy tool to shuffle data back and forth between the
database and the web, he'd be able to write the actual game part of the
game in about a weekend.

5. ...because Maureen, Katherine, and John have a gift for taking a
product that only geeks think is cool and giving it a few fashion and
grooming tips so that everyone else also begins to realize how cool it

6. ...because Tom and John want to learn more about stuff like Perl,
CGI, and databases.

7. ...because I'm sick of 'maintaining' my Transhumanist list, if you
call what I do maintaining. I'd rather move all of them to a SlashDot
like forum, which will improve the signal-to-noise ratio and stem the
torrent of bounced messages I get from defunct list members.

8. ...because I still haven't given up on my original interest in life
extension, and would like to have another SlashDot like site for the
discussion of the biotech industry. Cynically, if this succeeds in
establishing credibility among biotech people, it may help me look
better at grad-school interviews.

9. ...because I keep getting ideas for stories and even novels,
partially writing them, and then abandoning them in cold, musty zip
files. Does that happen to you? Maybe someone out there keeps thinking
of great middles or endings to stories and novels, but just can't seem
to come up with a good beginning. Why not start a writer's workshop
and/or a collaborative fiction site, perhaps incorporating
Everything2-like voting to select among alternative versions of each
chapter? Perhaps resulting in the first modern novel produced via the
Bazaar development model (I say *modern* novel because stories like The
Illiad, Beowulf, and the Gilgamesh Epic beat us to the punch by quite a
few centuries, but that's a rant for another day).

10. ...because we could all use one more piece of Resume glitter.
Because I get the sense we'd work well together, and have fun doing
it... and it's that intangible quality that's one of the few things
that retain true value in this rapidly changing time. Because each
of us always wanted something of our own-- maybe not the next
multimillion dollar dot-com venture, but at least an independent
web-site that pays for itself and earns us respect in our chosen

11. Insert what you've always wanted to do with a web server and a
database here.

Guess what? All it takes to try our hand at these things is:  A PC, not
necesserily the fastest one (and I already have one we can use for
A persistant connection (and I already have one we can use for now).
A database (funny, I happen to have that too).
Apache (ditto).
Software to translate between the database and the web interface that
our users will see. I thought we were basically just looking at a
choice between stable-but-limited Slashdot vs.
alpha-but-very-extensible Everything2. As it turns out, though, there
seem to be scads of different weblogs, Wikki's (a word I didn't even
know about until today), and other collaborative sites. Our first task
might just be choosing the right one. But, that's segueing into the
next section...

PS: This implicit invitation to join the effort extends to everyone on everything. If you have grand or subversive ideas on what to do with a database backed web server, or if you just want to get some hands on experience working with stuff like Perl, Apache, mod_perl, Python, and Zope... post a writeup here or contact me at f1r3br4nd@hotmail.com
I want to set up the infrastructure and then turn loose a bunch of interesting people on it to see what cool stuff they come up with. The box is up and running. I registered a domain name, but I won't tell you what it is until it propogates. VirtualHosting actually works the way Apache says it should. Now I just need to gather the inspiration to whip up some graphics and write up some seed content for my two brand spanking new sites: one about Transhumanism and one about Biotechnology.

f1r3br4nd: I have given thought to what one (well, me, actually) might do with the E2 code. The basic organization of Everything2 is (as I see it) like that of a jar of pennies. If you turn your back on it, it will attack and kill you. Wait, no, I meant it's not organized into categories, or sorted into lists other than the few (the proud) metanodes. I thought it would be a very neat idea to have users of a new database able to create and control (to some extent) their own nodespaces. Nodes would be able to cross reference (link) to nodes in their own spaces and in others. Each nodespace would have a front page, maybe some sort of rating system to keep the really bad nodespaces out of the way (but not necessarily out of sight.) This would add a lot of structure to an Everything-like system. Some people might view this as a disadvantage, while some people might see it as a large improvement. Personally, I think it's both:
  • Questions arise, "Where do I post a certain node?" (Maybe nodes could exist in more than one nodespace, and could be picked up by other nodespaces given certain conditions such as X softlinks to it from one nodespace. Perhaps there would be some sort of default/root nodespace for new nodes? I don't know.)
  • Wouldn't this partition the community? (Probably)
  • Any others?
Please /msg me, anyone who feels they like/dislike this idea, or if they were offended by my burrito remark.

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