tilde.town ~um on ~ other ~ sites orphans


For now, I wouldn't say I'm disappointed in the tildeverse. Just less excited than I was. I get a sense that this is the prevailing sentiment. (~audiodude)

Chances are, anyone reading this is already cognizant of the "tildeverse". For the reader who isn't, Paul Ford explains the origins of tilde.club, the prototype for the servers comprising the "tildeverse", in a Medium.com post from October 9th, 2014. His inspiration for founding this experiment was the punctuation mark '~'. In particular, he was inspired by a usage of '~' in which "You use tildes instead of colons or dashes" because "it’s more like handwriting." This amounts to a modification in conventions of mechanical communication to give signs of the author's humanity.

The present document is composed of excerpts and remarks that relate the etymology of '~' to the thoughts of some tilde users. It is an ongoing meditation (meaning it will continue to be updated and refined) on the nature and potential of the "tilde fad" (as ~datagrok calls it).

"~ is shorthand for 'my home directory'"

The early personal web grew up around these little “tilde sites”; that’s what preceded blogging. The “~” is a little like the “@” on Twitter—a shortcut that says: “Here is a person.” (Paul Ford)

In Vim, I just discovered, ‘~’ toggles a character’s case. I’m a character who wants my case switched about.

In the tilde.town irc, ~datagrok reminded me that,

in unix command-line contexts, ~ is shorthand for “my home directory” (like /home/datagrok) and ~user is shorthand for “(user)’s home directory.”

which, of course, is central to what we’re doing. Many of us are “coming home” to something familiar, other’s (like myself) are making a new home somewhere strange. Either way, we’re making ourselves a home near a root directory. This reminds me of what Heidegger calls “becoming homely in what is one’s own” (I am wary of the gnarly context in which he wrote these lines – the summer of 1942 – but I take it as a reminder of the fascistic potential latent in any radicalization, any “return to the root”). Essential to the process of "becoming homely" is the challenge and difficulty it poses:

...one’s own, finding one’s own, and appropriating what one has found as one’s own, is not that which is most self-evident or easiest but remains what is most difficult. (Heidegger, Höldelrin’s Hymn “The Ister”, §9)

"~ itself represents an -n-"

Becoming at home is one of the most difficult challenges we face: whether it be with ourselves, amongst others, on the web, or on this planet. Being at home doesn't amount to immersion in the familiar. One of Heidegger's basic ideas is that we don't know what it means to be at home. We can't know, because it's something we figure out in the process of making it happen, and making ourselves at home requires a detour through the foreign.

I don’t think a blog or more narrative is the optimal outcome. (~ford, October 24, 2014)

We’re reconnecting with the roots of this medium – a necessary step in any critique. What has been shouldn’t decide what will come, but we should, of course, be mindful. Forefront in my mind is the thought that “the next big thing” is probably not the one I want.

The ~ used to be a sign of something excluded that was slipped around the contours of what remained. It was a special case of inscription; precisely, a heading placed above the normal text, announcing something it implicitly contained:

tilde (n.)
1864, from Spanish, metathesis of Catalan title, from vernacular form of Medieval Latin titulus “stroke over an abridged word to indicate missing letters,” a specialized sense of Latin titulus, literally “inscription, heading” (see title (n.)). The mark itself represents an -n- and was used in Medieval Latin manuscripts in an abridged word over a preceding letter to indicate a missing -n- and save space. (etymonline)

‘Tilde’ is ‘title’ rearranged:

Metathesis (/məˈtæθəsɪs/; from Greek μετάθεσις, from μετατίθημι “I put in a different order”; Latin: trānspositiō) is the re-arranging of sounds or syllables in a word, or of words in a sentence. (wikipedia)

I reiterate ~datagrok’s question,

What should we keep, and what may we safely discard, from this re-examination of the early web? (~datagrok)

and I propose this refinement: what might we rearrange? We might even reconfigure the expectation that this become a certain kind of thing. We’ve accepted invitations to collaborate in the transformation of a stored-program computer. Universal computation is in our hands and those hands are linking…

If you look for more for it to be you will find nothing. (Paul Ford)