Whose blood is this?




Despite Futility

Originally Posted: [2022-04-03].

Here you are at the end of the web, and here I am staring off past you into the void.

I went on an Internet adventure recently trying to gather external resources for the Laboratories, and was saddened to find so many dead links on a page that, in its heyday, shared dozens of free educational resources. I'd found that site thanks to a link on the class portal for the Intro to Microbiology course I'm taking this semester, but I don't have the heart to tell my professor that it's half useless now.

I have told myself privately and even on the hidden manifesto here that I've come to terms with my website going the way of innumerable others as time marches on, but it does still make me rather sad to see a dead site. Sadder still are paywalls, which, at the very least, you will never see here. What good is the World Wide Web if so much of its content is locked away?

Perhaps I don't make the best use of my time (I am frequently guilty of adding scrapyard graphics to this site at times when I have more important things to work on in "real life"), but I have lots to do during my week. I don't have half the freedom I wish I had to start creating something approaching the kind of resource that might have been behind any one of those dead links. I don't know what sort of demand exists for sardonically editorialized online microbiology encyclopedias (if any at all), but I also don't really care. It's the kind of content I wish existed, and I don't think anybody else is going to do it.

This site as a whole does not concern itself with demand, obviously. It exists as my place to Be Online with the sole tether of a NeoCities account. If you like it, great! If you don't, what are you doing reading the Microbelog?

I love my website. I love being able to tweak it as I please, add whatever nonsense I like, and share it with everybody I know... but dear God, this is lonely, isn't it? I have the freedom to express myself here in as many characters, dividers and tacky GIFs as I'd like, but to whom? For what? This website is my little niche, and I don't mind it being a niche. Here, generally, I am surrounded by other strangers who want to revive the spirit of the Old Web, whatever that means.

I don't have an adblocker on my browser (I know, I know). It's part of my general life theme of making things more difficult for myself than they need to be, but it also allows me to see the sites I visit as they exist in the wild. In searching for Laboratory resources, I almost had to restart my poor 2011 MacBook Air due to some tab I opened being so goddamned bulky that it nearly smothered it.

Needless to say, that site did not end up being shared at the Laboratories. I followed dozens of dead links in search of free information. On some of those links that did work, I was asked about cookies and, on one site, I accepted them all by accident thanks to an annoying, less-than-user-friendly popup. I was subjected to soulless web design and various notifications that certain content was unavailable to me.

The free exchange of information is one of the most powerful capabilities of the Internet, and the state of it now is a crying shame. There are, of course, a few places that still attempt to be genuinely educational to everyone (a certain site comes to mind... Library... something...), but by and large it seems like those days have passed, and I'm left to sort through the wreckage to find those sites that still function.

So, where does that leave me? I have planned since the genesis (right, that's it! Library G... oh, shit, the Feds!) of this site to share as much free information as I can get away with sharing, and if it ever goes down, it'll be thanks to a soulless copyright claim from McGraw-Hill or elsewhere. I'm still going to make my encyclopedias. I've learned by now how to cite information, but it seems to me like the Web is now somewhat hostile to anything approaching sharing copyrighted content, even if the same information is in thousands of other textbooks.

I cannot make any promises about the publication date on those handcrafted resources. After all, I still have to learn the information myself well enough to "teach" it (and prepare in any number of other ways for those resources to be accurate and useful), but I'm petrified of working on it in public for the reasons outlined. I doubt I'll get my whole site taken down for a work in progress page that contains a bit of word-for-word plagiarism from some anatomy textbook, but I am worried about doing that, even accidentally. How many ways are there to describe, for example, the path of blood flow through the heart?

Further, and more soul-crushing: who's going to take the time to use the resources I create? If even a single person gets a passing grade they otherwise wouldn't have gotten thanks to my hypothetical General Chemistry writeups, then it'll have all been worth it, really, but how will they find it? Wouldn't they have been better off just scrolling on Wikipedia? Who cares about some B student's chemistry notes? Why should I even bother?

Ultimately, I guess I want to make these resources as a way to learn the material better myself, but we loop back around to the central "problem" I guess I have with the Old Web Revival sort of thing (of which I consider myself a part!) going on around these parts. I don't hate people who use Twitter or Facebook or whatever. Chances are, a lot of them are there for the same reason I'm on Discord. I want to keep in touch with my friends, and that's where they are. I envy them only somewhat, though, because at least you are not quite so isolated there.

I am fond of solitude, generally. I like read-only websites. I like creating a space of my very own that nobody can defile. But I am human, and (like the rest of humanity) am subject to living through extraordinarily lonely times. Despite being more connected than we have ever been, we are so terribly alone. I at least admit it by making a read-only website rather than using more populated social media platforms as any sort of substitute for honest human interaction.

I miss places. I miss walking somewhere public and feeling anything other than scorn and dread upon seeing bare faces. I miss my friends and my roommates. In the two years I've been attending community college, I haven't met even one of my professors or classmates in person. It's strange. We are social creatures. We cannot replace the need for interaction with favorites and follows. That tears away slowly at the soul and leaves you even more hollow and miserable.

So on this website, I am hollow, and I am miserable, but it's in spite of my work. I've spent countless hours here already in the few months since launching the site, and I am very proud of what I've been able to create here. I will be prouder still when this site can be useful to others. The horror I see in the attempt to revive the Old Web is that it is, generally, a somewhat vain pursuit in which we all create our own little pages and cliques, occasionally link to one another, and do ultimately very little with our slices of of the Internet. It is worth naught if there are still giants of industry dropping their massive boots on the fragile necks of genuine free expression.

What is to be done, then? I don't have an answer for you. I don't know how to "fix the Internet". I don't know how to make people who don't already have their own websites as their near-exclusive Internet presence question their dependence on various social networks. I don't know how to eradicate my own dependence on the instant gratification of a "like". What I do know is that the true power of The Internet is to share knowledge freely, so I will be starting there.

I encourage you to do the same, and to seek out those places that do still serve the important function of collecting and sharing knowledge for free. They're out there, you just have to find them.

The Internet doesn't have to be a place where every website helps you study. In fact, if it were, it would be terribly boring, wouldn't it? I'm sorry to say, though, that "a place that helps you study" is the sort of website PRE-DEAD.NET was always meant to be.

...Well, maybe more aptly: "a place that helps me study". If it helps you, then hey, that's a wonderful bonus.