The power of the history of the Internet? So much feels disposable about the Internet, and blogs haven’t helped. Postings more than a few days old feel like ancient history, and yet at the same time they sit there, a snapshot of a point of view the author can barely remember ever having. Comments added by anyone stumbling along more than a few hours or days later look like stragglers, people who turned up on the wrong day for a party and could do little more than leave their calling card.
But here was a site that struck me differently. It’s just a collection of comments on Peter Gabriel’s ‘Here Comes The Flood’ (one of his best numbers). It’s not a blog, or a web page past its expiry date, although it should be the latter: It was set up in 1994 by a German programmer called Brigitte Jellinek. The last comment attached to the page on Flood is less than a month ago. The first was in February 1996. Amazing, really; more than a decade of simple, sometimes moving thoughts on one timeless song. As Ms Jellinek herself observes on the homepage:
In December 1994 I set up this page to give people on the Web the chance to share what P[eter] G[abriel’]s songs mean to them. I didn’t expect much – from my previous experience with guestbooks I was prepared for idle chit chat and childish remarks. Well, you all proved me wrong. Every time I read some of the comments I am amazed about the quality of the contributions.
There can’t be that many sites from 1994 still so active, so alive (and someone taking such effort to preserve one). Credit to Ms. Jellinek.
Perhaps some blogs have this timelessness too, but the reverse chronological nature of blogs, their emphasis on a log, a journal, and time, perhaps work against this. Posts are time sensitive, more transient, and stumblers on an old post are likely to see their voices lost in the relentless forward march. That’s what makes the Flood page so remarkable — about a song that was originally performed in 1977, if I’m not mistaken — in that the comments may span more than a decade, and yet all share the same address, the same timelessness. A lesson, perhaps, for the design and future of blogs.