Three years ago I was sleeping on a friend’s floor. I was in between places and in the midst of a huge life change. I spent most of my days alternating between an intoxicating feeling of liberation and sobbing. I developed an illness and spent my days and nights in pain. I was working all nighters at my job partially because there was too much work to do but partially because it gave me something to do.
It was my birthday, and I had recently joined tilde.club. I read ftrain’s piece about it and it captured my imagination. ever since i’d watched Reboot as a little kid (and even moreso since i’d read Neuromancer as a teen) i’d wanted to find a feeling of being “inside” a computer where I could be anyone and make friends with people from anywhere.
I’d experimented with social unix servers in college but aside from a few friends they really didn’t catch on. I had an SDF account but found it kind of stark and overwhelming (no offense, I love y'all!). ftrain’s approach seemed awesome to me and seemed to hit some chord with people, but there was a huge problem: it was declared full.
I spent my birthday mostly alone. It was a nice day. I read in the graveyard, ate doughnuts, drank good coffee. I had wine with my friend at a nice bar. When we got home, I knew exactly what I really wanted for my birthday: a server just like tilde.club where anyone could come that would be as welcoming as possible to everyone. A place so unlike modern social media as to provide a bastion against the shit of the networked world.
I know it was dark when I started work. My friend loved the idea and helped me with the initial Puppet setup. We blasted ultrapop and j-pop and had color changing lights going and worked through the night until dawn.
Finally passing out, I figured it’d be cool if a few dozen people signed up; or even if it was just me and my friends. If it went nowhere, I was fine with that too. I was thrilled to have made a thing and believed strongly in it, which was reward enough. It was a nice birthday present to myself.
People came, and membership slowly went up for the first year. I watched people making community in IRC and was thrilled; but I was full of anxiety over how fragile it all seemed. I felt like it fell to me to ensure that the town stayed a healthy and welcoming place, and my pride was horrified of it becoming a ghost town after such a promising start.
I didn’t have to worry. By the second year it seemed like I could be hopeful. The town weathered some stress and had quiet periods but was continuing to be a place that could be counted on for community and inspiration. I invested a bunch of my time into automating user management and promoting the town, yielding even more new virtual faces and more great stuff.
And now, it’s been three years. I’ve never been happier with this community. For me and many others, it’s our home online; a pub that never shuts and serves everyone’s favorite drink (alcoholic or not); a place where feelings and identities have room to breathe and change.
My life has changed a lot in the past three years–in every way, for the better. While the town has changed in size and scope, it’s really been the same since day one: a stable place of constant community. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Happy birthday, town.