Welcome to my inaugural Escapist article, y’all! (I only write Southern, but don’t worry, it’s rare) My first offering was going to be an in-depth etymological deconstruction of the word “geek.” I was excited. I was inspired. I was already about a third of the way through it…and then last Friday happened. I got an email from someone who frequents my site, nerdist.com. Then another. Then another. Pretty soon a lot. They all said the same thing: “I can’t seem to access any of your pages.”
That’s what you want to hear. Sure enough, when I went to my home page EVERY link returned a server-side 404. Sweet! Currently, I’m running a theme called “Thesis” with WordPress 2.7.1 on a shared Linux hosting account using MYSQL with Hostway. As you know, the most distressing thing about a problem like this is that with so many elements at play, it’s like having a massive math problem in front of you and a minus sign spontaneously disappears somewhere collapsing the entire formula and you don’t know where or why. The poison could be anywhere.
Naturally, there was swearing. Not just simple expletives, but the kinds of innovative swear-combinations that only a computer can inspire. I emailed the guy who designed my site. He was engrossed in another project and hadn’t touched it. I called Hostway. The most the “tech support” person could tell me was that my file folder looked empty. I hung up having learned two things about him: 1) he had a thick Russian accent, and 2) he had eyes. (Who needs air travel when you can CIRCLE THE GLOBE with outsourcing!!!) He at least was kind enough to “escalate” the issue up the support ladder to the second to lowest rung, or people who know that other things fix computers besides power cycling them.
Next, I cast my scornful gaze at WordPress. I’ll just call their tech suppor–oh wait. Off to the support forums! I was able to find one other person with the same problem, but her solution didn’t work for me. Then I tried to export the blog and reimport it. Guess what? WordPress has a baffling 2MB file limit on imports. SCHWAAA??? Two MEGA-bytes??? What, just in case my blog is backed up on a 3″ floppy? I was beginning to feel like an old town who realizes their copper mines have just dried up-I may have to abandon completely and start over. I was seriously F’d in the A with no one even bothering to reach around and play with my T’s.
Then I had a flash of an idea: Why not ask Twitter? I’d been using it for months to share things like skunk-fucking videos while at the same time reading about how many whales @stephenfry was swimming with. I don’t know why it hadn’t occurred to me to tap it as a USEFUL information resource. I instantly sent out this Tweet: “Anyone know a good WordPress ninja? My homepage has decided to return 404s on every link.” Within SECONDS, suggestions started pouring in. “Check your permalink structure,” “Sounds like an .htaccess problem,” “I’m sure it’s mod_rewrite.” Then I emailed my old roommate Wil “Captain Internet” Wheaton to RT (ReTweet) my shrill scream for help (@wilw has over 150,000 followers-a considerably wider net to cast). This tripled my responses from good-hearted nerds willing to help. Yes, I have learned that the sweeping majority of Twitterers are nice (message-board flaming is so Web 1.0).
Ultimately, no one’s suggestions worked. Not because they were wrong but because it clearly was a Hostway issue. After a day and a half, everything just started working again. I guess the escalating worked. Or, the Fryads who were sabotaging my site got bored (“Fryad” = my name for a computer-dwelling nymph). It didn’t matter, though. I experienced the raw power of Twitter. I was both awed and grateful. Sure, you can listen to people tweet about the Perez/Lily Allen feud or the inexplicably sweatiness of their balls (I’m looking at YOU, @steveagee), but Twitter is a hyper-distilled version of the Web itself: bite-sized bits of unobstructed data in real time, but humanized through its communal foundation.
MySpace feels like downtown Tokyo. Facebook has fewer ad-nouncements but feels sterile to me (and please stop sending me knighthood invitations). Twitter actually feels like a buddy, and therein lies the addiction. It fosters kinship and relatability. I’ve always got someone with me to digitally elbow and point to the weird cemetery kiosk in the Nashville mega-mall I’m passing through or to proclaim my puerile epiphany that the Hulk is really just an anthropomorphic boner. Plus, its character limit is teaching me to be more economical with words, a talent I don’t innately possess but one that is crucial for a stand-up.
I don’t know what the future of micro-blogging holds. I know that the folks at Twitter HQ had received about $50 million in capital but are still trying to figure out how to monetize the service. There’s no QUESTION that it’s valuable, but can it make money? It’s like everyone’s standing around, marveling at a three-year old who can speak six languages. There’s got to be SOMETHING you can do with it, right? I sincerely hope they do figure out a pleasant way to generate a profit and keep it going, because not only is it potentially the most powerful network on the Web, but I’d really hate to lose my new best fwend.
My Twitter stats:
Desktop App: Tweetdeck
Mobile App: Twitterfon