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"Clique Here for Identity"

I'm really not sure how to feel about all of this, but I will attempt to discuss it this week, since it is probably what applies to me the most right now. It is the subject of cliques on the 'Net and Web.

As I've said in the past, working battle lines are being drawn from the established personal sites out there and the big-time, all-the-budget-you-can-spare commercial web sites. Most of the work is being done by the personal sites, mind you, as they're closing themselves in from the rest of the Web. Instead of recognizing some commercial sites as all-around good structure and design, they choose only to praise the personal sites which still remain as numerous on the Web as reporters trying to get an interview with Madonna.

If you look at the sites in question, which I choose not to name, you will find the same links to the same personal sites. It's a ring of people who identify with each other. It's a ring of people who share ideas and Web techniques and links to each others' pages. It's a ring of people who incessantly make references to each other, since they are always on each others' minds.

Is this necessarily bad? No, I don't think so. I think, for the most part, the people in question are doing a lot of good things for the Web, and the 'Net in general. They contribute a lot of the personal 'tude which makes up the individuality on the Web. They are among the best at what they do, and they keep the standards high. These people are pleasant to talk to and inspire thoughtful debate. I know some of them. And I admire many of them. Heck, I'll even pilfer ideas off them sometimes.

But with these closed-in cliques, people must be careful not to lose sight of their principles. It is entirely possible that the best personal site authors will enclose themselves in a group and no longer look for the obscure pages out there. Instead of searching for the unique, hidden college student's page, they look at links on a friend's page, then find that it shares a lot with their page. All the ideas are being tossed around in the same circle and nothing escapes or intrudes. They say, "Hey, I came up with that HTML idea too!" and they write the author on buddy terms, then put the person's link on their page. In the meantime, lesser-known pages which could use the recognition are excluded.

And I fear this period is coming closer and closer. Some sites I see only list friend's pages. No stangers appear on the lists. It's sad. Is this truly the way to compete with the big companies who can afford to buy up David Siegel students and make them create a snazzy, self-indulgent, Netscape Navigator page?

It comes down mainly to kissing ass, I think. We all want hits and we all want acceptance, right? We all want other people to tell us that what we do is appreciated and skillful. We want to indulge ourselves in pride. So why not schmooze a little?

In truth, the only people out of these cliques that I keep in contact with are those whom I've come to understand through their writing, and those who will give me thought-provoking e-mails during the afternoon and night to brighten my day. Diarists bore me. I admire and identify more with the people who are willing to take some actual risks and flesh out their arguments about religion and sex and race and all the other get-me-mad-enough-to-bash-your-puny-skull-in topics we don't like discussing. I want to understand someone else's views on wooden tennis rackets vs. graphite tennis rackets, or God vs. Buddha, or whatever. I am not that interested in reading about the most trivial details of someone's life on a web page.

I never have liked diaries. I tried to keep up diaries as a child, but even then I gave them up quickly -- the details were repetitive and monotonous. I didn't care, no one else would care. On the other hand, the more universal issues open up whole new avenues of thought in the mind. Someone's discussing of the latest scandals to rock Washington D.C. may lead a reader to sit up at night thinking about what it means to our society. Diaries are a pain for the author, the reader, and the historian to figure out and decode. But someone's thoughts on abortion or drug abuse! Now that helps someone figure out what you are truly like!

So basically, I guess I'm worried for the future individuality and creativity of personal sites on the 'Net. I want to see them keep up with the big commercial sites (that's why I registered my name as a domain name), and sites from Geocities and Tripod just won't cut it. We need the individuals who are good at doing something they love to provide the example for the rest of the individuals. We can't have the individuals shutting themselves off into their own little clique.

I could just be overreacting. But when I see the same new sites which have been recommended to me on one person's site show up on the Project Cool site of the day, or when another author designs a whole section of a site to critique a friend's site, I can only stop and think about how much the nameless college student out there will be hurt.

And isn't that what we're trying to avoid? Hurting the individual? Think about it.

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